Running is a great whole body exercise. It engages your mind as well as your body, gets your heart pumping, your lungs puffing and your endorphins racing, it increases blood flow which makes your skin look clearer and healthier. It kicks your body up a notch and is a very effective way to burn kilojoules.
Even after you stop exercising the ‘afterburn’ effect keeps your body in kilojoule burning mode for at least an hour. It makes sense that running can help you to lose weight but did you know that some of the greatest advantages of running are felt after you have reached your goal weight and your aim is to maintain and tone? Here’s why.
- Body sculpting. Running uses your own bodyweight as resistance to tone your calves, shins and quads as well as engaging your glutes when going uphill. It’s not just your lower body that benefits though. Keeping your legs high will firm your stomach muscles and your core is engaged to keep your body posture upright and in a comfortable running position. Pumping your arms when running at speed will also tone your arms and shoulders.
- Take advantage of the link between exercise and appetite. Nutritionists at the University of Aberdeen used brain imaging scans to show that there is a clear link between exercise (running quickly for an hour) and a lack of desire for junk foods. Participants were much more likely to choose healthy foods after exercise than those who weren’t running. This is a trailing benefit that you can maximise by running several times a week. Take advantage of your brain’s response to exercise to adopt healthy new habits around food.
- Circulation and Respiration. Running gets your heart and lungs working together to feed your muscles with the oxygen they need to function well, and to expel waste products (carbon dioxide) through your lungs. Maintaining an increased heart rate for an extended period of time strengthens your heart and improves its ability to pump blood through your body. Similarly, an increased breathing rate increases the lung’s oxygen capacity and strengthens the muscles of the lungs. This greatly increases your overall health.
- Running can protect your joints. This goes against conventional wisdom but there have not been any studies that show a link between running and osteoarthritis. In fact, running strengthens the ligaments that support joints which makes them more stable. Exercise also keeps the cartilage in your joints moving. This expansion and contraction draws in oxygen and removes waste products which keeps the cartilage well-nourished and healthy.
- Running is a well-known mood booster. Have you heard of ‘runner’s high’? It’s real! Aerobic exercise, like running, brings about neurochemical changes in the body. Your brain produces endorphins during and after running which counter the negative effects of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Regular exercise repairs neuron damage in the brain though increased blood flow. This allows the brain to release glutamate and dopamine both of which hinder depression and significantly boost how we feel.
So pound the pavement, kill some kilograms and harness happiness!