A lot of people swear by running—it just makes their day. Doubtless, running is great for the posture and it takes care of your daily cardio quota, tones you up, and gives you great legs. It also prevents obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even strokes. Running does condition the heart and its associated muscles, together called the cardiovascular system, to a great extent.
But does it work for everyone? Is running really all that it’s made out to be? It is. Keep reading.
Run Longer To Live Longer
Six Years Of Running Lowers Death Risk By Half
According to a study, you can reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular disease by running. Compared with non-runners, runners enjoy a 30 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a whopping 45 per cent lower risk from heart disease or stroke.
Even those who ran one or two times per week had a lower risk of dying than did non-runners.
Those who ran persistently over six years had the most significant benefits—as much as 50 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke! Voila!1
Distance Runners Have Better Left Ventricles
Running for longer distances works very well for your heart, say studies. Echocardiographic examinations on runners show that distance runners have a slow pulse while at rest and high maximal oxygen consumption, which means that their bodies can take in more oxygen to fuel their activities.
They also have thicker and larger left ventricles, or the lower heart chamber.
Though runners are not immune to organic heart disease, their hearts are more efficient than their sedentary counterparts.2
But A Marathon Sans Training Damages The Heart
Running does help heart health, but here’s a hitch. If you are a novice, signing up for a marathon without adequate training could actually have the opposite effect on the heart. A team of researchers who observed MRI data of several marathon runners came up with a surprising finding.
The MRI data revealed that marathon running actually damaged the hearts of less fit runners. Thankfully, this damage is reversible, but it may take up to three months for the recovery to happen.3
If you don’t put enough effort in training for that dream marathon, it is unlikely to show the desired result.
Running Plus Weight Training Makes The Heart Efficient
As you train for a marathon under the guidance of a physical trainer to build your endurance levels, incorporate strength training into the exercise regimen, and you are good to go.
According to a 12-week study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, aerobic capacity, or the body’s ability to take in more oxygen, increased in the subjects when endurance training was immediately followed by circuit training.4
What does this mean? An increase in aerobic capacity not only signifies that your body can take in more oxygen but also that your heart is working efficiently to get all this oxygen to your muscles. Running or fast jogging followed by weight training has more benefits for your heart health than just running.
Jogging And Brisk Walking Will Do Too
There is a constant debate between runners and joggers on which form of activity is best for overall health. Turns out, walking or jogging can give you just about the same kind of results as running as far as the heart is concerned. There’s apparently no need to huff and puff while running. Your heart will thank you just as much for a brisk walk.
But Not Strenuous Jogging
In the Copenhagen City Heart Study, researchers analyzed over 5,000 healthy participants. When joggers indulged in regular and consistent jogging spanning across decades, strenuous jogging or running actually posed health risks, especially to the cardiovascular system.5
Try Brisk Walking
Not into running? Don’t enjoy a jog either? No worries. Even adding a few more steps to your walking routine will help you and your heart. And it’s not just the heart that will benefit.
When researchers analyzed 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers in a study spanning six years, they concluded that the same amount of energy used for brisk walking and running led to similar reduction in the risk for several conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and possibly coronary heart disease.6 So whether you start walking the dog or park the car far from the gate, every bit counts.
How Many Hours A Day?
American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association together recommends that everyone between the age of 18 and 65 years take up either moderate-intensity or vigorous aerobic physical activity.7
- Moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (read, brisk walking) for a minimum of 30 min on 5 days each week
- Vigorous aerobic physical activity (jogging or running) for a minimum of 20 min on 3 days each week
In conclusion, running comes with a plethora of health benefits, of which improved heart health is just one. But make sure you start your distance running after proper training under a qualified coach.
|↑1||Lee, Duck-chul, Russell R. Pate, Carl J. Lavie, Xuemei Sui, Timothy S. Church, and Steven N. Blair. “Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 64, no. 5 (2014): 472-481.|
|↑2||Cantwell, John D. “Cardiovascular aspects of running.” Clinics in sports medicine 4, no. 4 (1985): 627-640.|
|↑3||Gaudreault, Valerie, Helena Tizon-Marcos, Paul Poirier, Philippe Pibarot, Philippe Gilbert, Marc Amyot, Josep Rodés-Cabau, Jean-Pierre Després, Olivier Bertrand, and Eric Larose. “Transient myocardial tissue and function changes during a marathon in less fit marathon runners.” Canadian Journal of Cardiology 29, no. 10 (2013): 1269-1276.|
|↑4||Chtara, M., K. Chamari, M. Chaouachi, A. Chaouachi, D. Koubaa, Y. Feki, G. P. Millet, and M. Amri. “Effects of intra-session concurrent endurance and strength training sequence on aerobic performance and capacity.” British journal of sports medicine 39, no. 8 (2005): 555-560.|
|↑5||Schnohr, Peter, James H. O’Keefe, Jacob L. Marott, Peter Lange, and Gorm B. Jensen. “Dose of jogging and long-term mortality: the Copenhagen City Heart Study.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 65, no. 5 (2015): 411-419.|
|↑6||Williams, Paul T., and Paul D. Thompson. “Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction.” Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology 33, no. 5 (2013): 1085-1091.|
|↑7||Haskell, William L., I-Min Lee, Russell R. Pate, Kenneth E. Powell, Steven N. Blair, Barry A. Franklin, Caroline A. Macera, Gregory W. Heath, Paul D. Thompson, and Adrian Bauman. “Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.” Circulation 116, no. 9 (2007): 1081.|