Healthy Lifestyles

17 Health & Brain Benefits of Running

1. Healthy heart Running is one of the best ways to give your heart muscle an effective workout. By running regularly you can improve circulation, and reduce the risk of a heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.

2. Weight loss The average runner burns 1,000 calories an hour during a training session. So expect to get thinner, which will in turn help you run faster.

3. Osteoporosis If you run on a regular basis you are continually taxing your muscles and bones so the bones are stimulated to remain stronger and do not easily weaken with age. So bye bye osteoporosis.

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4. Mental health A regular running habit will you lift your mood and build self-esteem. It also increases your self-confidence as you reach fitness and/or weight loss goals. Running can help relieve mild depression.

5. Sleep Studies show that runners find it easier to get to sleep at night and sleep longer. Insomniacs take note.

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6. Stress Running increases your ability to cope with everyday minor irritations and stresses.

7. Happiness Endorphins engendered by exercise mean that people who run are often happier than those who don’t: ever felt that sense of elation during or after a run (known as the runner’s high)? Running regularly can also improve patience, humour and ambition, and make you more good-tempered and easy-going.

8. Anxiety Runners generally have a lower level of anxiety than those who don’t run. One study suggests that regular training reduces the activity of the serotonin receptors in the brain which regulate mood. Reduced sensitivity of these receptors to stimulation might explain the positive effects of exercise on anxiety.

9. Immune system If you are a runner you will find that you have a stronger immune system, that means you’ll suffer less from minor illnesses such as colds, allergies, fatigue, menstrual discomfort, backache, and digestive disorders.

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10. Brain power You can increase your mental functions by going running as it boosts blood flow to the brain and helps it receive oxygen and nutrients, making you more productive at work.

11. Complexion Running stimulates your circulation, improving the transportation of nutrients around your system and flushing out waste products. This will help make your skin clearer and give you that distinctive runner’s glow.

12. Fat burn By running you are building lean muscle, changing your body composition and your metabolism. Lean muscle weighs heavier than fat, but burns more calories even when you’re resting, so cultivate a regular running habit and you should see a gradual, healthy inch loss.

5 Brain Benefits of Running

Running helps more than your heart and lungs. Promising brain research shows a strong link between running and a “younger,” more nimble brain. Vigorous cardiovascular activity pumps more oxygen-and glucose-rich blood to your noggin. And when you make running a frequent habit, the rewards are long-term. All forms of exercise generate more energy for the brain, but research indicates the more aerobically challenging the exercise, the greater the mental payoff. Here’s a look at your brain on running.

New Thinking
Fresh, New Ideas for Your Workout Routine. Running sparks the growth of fresh nerve cells, called neurogenesis, and new blood vessels, called angiogenesis, says J. Carson Smith, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland in College Park who studies the role exercise plays in brain function. “We know that neurogenesis and angiogenesis increase brain-tissue volume, which otherwise shrinks as we age,” he says. In a 2011 study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), for example, older adults who exercised regularly increased the volume of their hippocampus—the region linked to learning and memory—by two percent, compared to inactive peers. That may not sound like much until you realize that this part of the brain isn’t known for increasing at any point in adulthood. What’s more, running appears to “rescue” many brain cells that would otherwise die.

Sweating the Details
Running helps you get better at learning and storing new information and memories, and can potentially stave off age-related dementia. The hippocampus, a sea horse-shaped structure tucked under the medial temporal lobe, is most affected by neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In a 2010 study, also in PNAS, adult mice “runners” grew new neurons that made them better at making fine distinctions between shapes and colors than sedentary rodents. Earlier studies on humans came to similar conclusions. These types of cognitive skills, including improved focus, help forestall dementia.

Power Planning
Lacing up regularly may make the executive functions that happen in the frontal cortex—decision-making, planning, organizing, juggling mental tasks—easier. In a 2010 Japanese study, people who’d just completed bouts of physical activity scored higher on mental tests than those who did not. So it may be that if you run regularly, you can plan your kid’s birthday and your company retreat without mixing up the details.

Quick Recall
Being aerobically active is key not just to making memories, but finding them when you want to. In a study of patients diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, those who exercised were better able to recall names of famous people. Brain scans reveal activity in the caudate nucleus, which sits in the midbrain just below the corpus collosum. This area is involved in motor function, but also supports memory circuits; running appears to improve the quality of the signals being transmitted through those circuits, which means you have better access to the zillions of details you’ve got stored there.

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