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Posted December 08, 2021 by Nilesh Shah, MD
There's plenty of scientific evidence that proves regular exercise (30 minutes, five times per week) — and running in particular — has huge health benefits. Here are the top 7 benefits of running, courtesy of Dr. Shah.
No matter how you feel at any given moment, running will make you feel better. This feeling goes beyond the “runner's high” — that rush of feel-good hormones known as endocannabinoids. In a 2006 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that even a single bout of exercise — 30 minutes on a treadmill — could instantly lift the mood of someone suffering from a major depressive order. Moderate exercise may help people cope with anxiety and stress even after they're done working out.
Exercise burns calories while you're working out. The bonus is that when you exercise, the burn continues after you stop. Studies have shown that regular exercise boosts “afterburn” — that is, the number of calories you burn after exercise. This happens when you're exercising at an intensity that's a little faster than your easy pace, and a little slower than marathon pace.
Going on a daily run can be an aid for getting a good night's sleep. A 2012 study found those who run regularly in the mornings showed an improvement in objective sleep. Subjective sleep quality, mood and concentration during the day improved, and sleepiness during the day decreased.
You may have heard running is bad for your knees, but science has proven that it's not. Studies show that running improves knee health, according to Boston University researcher David Felson in an interview with National Public Radio. Running also increases bone mass and helps stem age-related bone loss.
Running regularly will help you stay sharp. A December 2012 study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review concluded there is strong evidence regular exercise helps defeat age-related mental decline. Studies consistently found that fitter older adults scored better in mental tests than their unfit peers. What's more, in stroke patients, regular exercise improves memory, language, thinking and judgment problems by almost 50%.
Running can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Men and women at all blood pressure levels can benefit from running just five minutes a day, says the American Heart Association.
A review of 170 epidemiological studies in the Journal of Nutrition showed that regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. What's more, if you already have cancer, running can improve your quality of life while you're undergoing chemotherapy.
Running for five minutes every day can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by almost half. People who run regularly are at a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Weekly running, even five to ten minutes a day and at slow speeds less than six miles per hour, will reduce the risk compared with not running.
If you meet the minimum of amount of physical activity recommended — 30 minutes, five times per week — you're likely to live longer. Smokers added 4.1 years to their lives; nonsmokers gained three years. Cancer survivors extended their lives by 5.3 years. Those with heart disease gained 4.3 years.