– by Brendan Reid, Editor –
You’ve been feeling kind of sluggish lately, and want to start a new exercise routine. The trouble is, you don’t really know where to start. The gym can be a daunting place, with all its complicated machines and He-Man lookalikes. If you want to get back into a healthy groove without all the pressure of a gym membership, where do you begin? The answer is simple: go for a run.
Running is one of the best things you can do for your body. As an activity, it is natural, easy, and does not require any extra equipment or training. Simply put one foot in front of another in a hasty fashion, and you’ll find yourself running in no time.
When you begin, your runs do not have to be long. In fact, it’s best to start slow. Don’t try to run the whole way at first; most experts recommend starting with a walk-run, gradually increasing the distance you are running vs walking, in order to help not only your heart, lungs and muscles ease into it, but also to give your connective tissue like tendons and ligaments a chance to catch up, helping to prevent injury.
Just as you start slow, start short. Go a distance you feel comfortable with, and you’ll soon find yourself craving more. The health benefits of running regularly are far reaching; here is a list of the changes you can expect to feel once you get a consistent schedule.
- Your lungs will feel stronger
The lungs are essential for the function of the human body. They take in oxygen and pass it into the bloodstream, where it brings that essential element to every cell. Lungs also expel unneeded carbon dioxide. Running forces your lungs to get stronger, by strengthening the muscles your lungs use to keep pumping. This helps you access and use oxygen more efficiently. If you are quitting smoking, running will help your body get rid of the tar buildup in your lungs much faster. Running makes you breathe better, and as a result, makes you feel better.
- Your heart will gain efficiency
While the lungs take in the oxygen that our body needs to survive, the heart moves in to where it needs to be. By pumping blood through our veins, the heart keeps our body functioning properly. The heart is a muscle, and like any muscle it needs work to stay strong. A weak heart has a much more difficult time pumping blood to the extremities, and ultimately will result in heart failure. Running is one of the best exercises for the heart. When you run, those cells throughout your body (especially your leg muscles) scream for oxygen in order to access energy. Your heart has to pump hard and fast to achieve this distribution. Because of this need, running keeps your heart rate high for long periods of time. Fast-moving blood also helps to keep the arteries and veins clear of plaque buildup, and if you couple regular runs with a well balanced diet, you can work wonders for your internal systems.
- Your legs will become strong and powerful
Contrary to popular belief, running does not destroy your knees. In fact, it has been proven to strengthen those crucial joints, as well as connective tissue and muscles structures. As a weight-bearing exercise, running helps to create denser bones, which helps to prevent osteoporosis. By keeping your legs healthy, you are ensuring your mobility into old age, and you want to enjoy your active, independent life as long as you can.
- Your brain will feel amazing
Any person suffering from anxiety or depression should strap on those shoes and run. It clears your head and fills your body with the feel-good hormones dopamine and seratonin—chemicals that can make the buzz of everyday life not seem so daunting. In fact, these hormones are the very same ones drugs make use of to get you high, but this is an all-natural high.
Studies have shown that regular exercise is as beneficial as antidepressants at relieving depression. Studies also show regular challenging exercise improves your brain function. Bottom line? Running makes the mind sharper and clearer. If you are in need of motivation or are having trouble with a tough decision, go for a run. You become more responsive and alert, and will be filled with a great appetite for life.
- You will stay at a healthy weight
It’s pretty difficult to lose weight by running alone; diet is extremely important. But running does burn a lot of calories when you are doing it and even afterwards. You can certainly still carry a few extra pounds even if you run regularly, if you overeat or eat the wrong foods, but you probably won’t stray too far from your healthiest weight.