Running, as you know, is a low-maintenance activity. Unlike working out at a swanky gym that burns a hole in your pocket, running actually has lesser frills and more benefits. Apart from the obvious benefits like losing weight and increasing lung capacity, running helps increase a person’s stamina to endure exacting physical and emotional situations.
1. Thicken Your Cartilage And Prevent Knee Osteoarthritis
Endurance is nothing but your ability to withstand wear and tear. And inevitably, with age comes wear and tear, a common example of which is osteoarthritis—a type of joint disease that is caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. Popular belief has it that running increases this risk.
But a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that on the contrary, running helps in making the knees stronger by thickening the cartilage.1
According to the study, runners had half the incidence of osteoarthritis compared with walkers or people who did other forms of exercise. It attributed this to two reasons:
- The impact of running strengthens the muscles around the knee, the hamstrings, and the calf muscle.
- Running leads to lower body mass index, which reduces the chances of hip replacement as well.
2. Keep Your Bones Mineral-Dense And Prevent Osteoporosis
With age, the density of minerals in your bone tissues, especially calcium, depletes, leaving you vulnerable to osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become brittle and prone to fracture. University of Missouri researchers found that high-impact activities like running, rather than resistance training exercises like cycling, may have a greater positive effect on the bone mineral density (BMD) and noted that runners had greater spine BMD than cyclists.2
Another study presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology also gave more marks to running over other exercises. The researchers noted that an exercise that puts greater strain on the bones, like running, may improve long-term bone health more effectively than non-weight-bearing activities like cycling or swimming.3
3. Keep Your Muscles Active For Longer
Why do you do certain exercises before a run? That’s because they help your muscles perform better. This phenomenon is called post-activation potentiation (PAP). For instance, you can sprint much faster after performing a back squat than without performing the squat. A study on running found that running enhances PAP in the trained muscles of male endurance athletes, and this may reduce fatigue during endurance exercises.4
4. Withstand Cancer Treatment And Fast-Track Recovery
What makes running especially effective is its capacity for endurance building and resilience in critical situations, even something as critical as recovering from the ill effects of cancer treatment. Not every patient undergoing cancer treatment can withstand the radiation therapy, which often leaves them with injuries. But as per a 2008 research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the Unites States of America (PNAS), physical exercise—especially running—can help with recovery, in terms of both the structure and the function of the cells in the injured area, in such cases.
The three-month-long research conducted on mice found that after a medium exposure to radiation therapy for cancer treatment, running significantly restored the following:
- The levels of precursor cells, or stem cells that are ready to form new blood cells
- The rate of birth of new neurons or nerve cells
The study also suggested that running could be used in rehabilitation therapy of childhood cancer survivors.5
5. Increase Mental Strength And Withstand Stress
The link between running and resilience is no folklore. Stress is inevitable in your daily life, and if you let it take the upper hand, it would soon lead to complications like chronic depression and anxiety. Exercise is a mood elevator, and high-endurance exercises like running can help trigger the release of serotonin in your body, which is responsible for this elevated mood. So running does naturally, and without side effects, what antidepressants do—i.e., increase the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin to alleviate depression.
Studies have shown that exercise as a behavior therapy can help alleviate clinical depression in adults.6
6. Enhance Memory And Coping Skills
Say you are new to a city and have difficulty remembering your way around it. But if you were a runner, it wouldn’t be so difficult. A study published in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation noted that the young adults who took part in a training program consisting of three running sessions of 30 minutes per week for 6 weeks showed a significant increase in visuospatial memory performance.7 In simpler words, they could process and interpret better the visual information about the spaces across which they ran.
When your visuospatial memory is strong, it would be easy for you to retrace your way across the city because you have already constructed a map in your memory from past trips. And running can arm you with this coping skill.
|↑1||Williams, Paul T. “Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 45, no. 7 (2013): 1292.|
|↑2||University of Missouri. Building Strong Bones: Running May Provide More Benefits Than Resistance Training, Study Finds. ScienceDaily.|
|↑3||European Society of Endocrinology. Running may be better than cycling for long-term bone health. ScienceDaily.|
|↑4||Hamada, T. A. K. U., DIGBY G. Sale, and J. Duncan Macdougall. “Postactivation potentiation in endurance-trained male athletes.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 32, no. 2 (2000): 403-411.|
|↑5||Naylor, Andrew S., Cecilia Bull, Marie KL Nilsson, Changlian Zhu, Thomas Björk-Eriksson, Peter S. Eriksson, Klas Blomgren, and H. Georg Kuhn. “Voluntary running rescues adult hippocampal neurogenesis after irradiation of the young mouse brain.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105, no. 38 (2008): 14632-14637.|
|↑6||Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The benefits of exercise for the clinically depressed.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry 6, no. 3 (2004): 104.|
|↑7||Stroth, Sanna, Katrin Hille, Manfred Spitzer, and Ralf Reinhardt. “Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults.”Neuropsychological Rehabilitation 19, no. 2 (2009): 223-243.|