Running: For Health and Peace of Mind

I was actually surprised to find out the extent of benefits related to regular running. I originally began for weight control, it was something I could do most anywhere, and I didn't have to pay a monthly gym membership!

Anxiety, appetite, weight, muscle tone, energy level, menopause, cellulite, better sleep, heart health......these are all affected positively.

In this article you will discover the benefits of regular running, and learn several tips that will help you get started with a program, if you choose to do so.

When you're short on time (and who isn't?), or stuck on a plateau, it is a do-anywhere, no-equipment-required alternative that can ramp up weight loss.

Adding even a few minutes into your walks can build stronger bones and cut your exercise time nearly in half: Minute for minute, it burns about twice as many calories as walking.

If you think you're too old, too out of shape, or that it will damage your knees, check the research. Pounds can easily start disappearing the first week, and after a couple of months you could be shaving inches off of your butt, thighs, waistline, hips, even arms. It's also great for eliminating belly fat!

If you have concerns, visit with your medical practitioner to confirm that you are healthy enough to start a program.

Don't be surprised if you become a convert-- adults in one study who tried jogging reported enjoying their workouts 30% more than when they walked, possibly because it stimulates more good-mood hormones in the brain, say researchers.


These benefits are in no particular order of importance.

  • Increases aerobic capacity and endurance.
  • Strengthens legs. After a regular routine for about a month I was shocked at how much easier it was to lift weights with my legs!
  • Weight loss and a much more lean body overall. The energy expenditure is high and burns a lot of calories.

    A person can easily burn several hundred calories during a run. This may level out after a while, since it depends on your caloric intake verses your caloric expenditure.

  • Eliminate cellulite. At least some or maybe all if you didn't have much to start.
  • You will burn more calories at rest. Imagine losing weight while you're relaxing, or working at your desk!
  • Improvements in your cardiovascular health. This means improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a decrease in your resting heart rate.

    Some cardiologists are treating their patients by placing them on a specialized program and they are seeing great results.

    One of the most interesting statistics I have read is that the heart of an inactive person beats 36,000 more times each day than that of a runner, as it keep the arteries open and the blood flowing smoothly.

  • Higher energy levels.
  • Helps fight addiction, such as alcohol or drug addiction. Daily workouts can fill the gaps in the lives of people who suffer from addictions. Instead they become addicted to that hour or so of cardio exercise each day. It's effective and affordable.
  • Inexpensive and simple. Proper shoes, comfortable clothes, and maybe some sunblock is all you need. Of course, I have to have my ipod!
  • Natural medicine instead of prescription drugs. Running has been prescribed by doctors to aid the early stages of hypertension, osteoporosis and diabetes. The doctor may also prescribe medication, but the use of this cardio activity may reduce the length of time on prescription drugs.
  • Improved lung function. It maximizes the use of your lungs, and it has also been known to heal smoker's lungs!
  • Improved coordination. This sport may seem to be a one-foot-before-the-other activity, but it can help coordination. Learning how to hold your body, your stride and your breathing technique will keep you moving smoothly.
  • May help slow the aging process. The regular use of muscles and bones during a run increases their strength.

    It also releases human growth hormone, which aids in cell reproduction, metabolism and other functions, which means you look and feel younger.

  • Eases menopausal symptoms. The benefits apply to both pre and post-menopausal women.

    To learn more about the amazing benefits for women over 40, check out the book, Running Through Menopauseicon, by Karen Dove Barr.

  • The psychological benefits far outweigh the physical demands, and this activity is often used to treat depression and anxiety.

    I saved this one for last because I know from experience it works. Anxiety has been a problem for me for several years and seems to be the thing that can relieve my symptoms (plus a healthy diet).

    It decreases your stress level, releasing those happy endorphins which is the cause for "runner's high". After a good run, many have an improved mood and seem happier.

    Studies show that it is a natural tranquilizer and it's effects on depression, anxiety and addiction are remarkable.

    The solitude allows you to clear your mind, easing tension while you escape from your everyday problems for a little while. It's a great time to come up with plans to resolve the pressing issues in your life!

Beginner Tips

These tips helped me improve when I was a beginner.

  1. Progress slow and steady: As beginners we get excited by our early progress, and often want to do more, more, more! But it's important to progress gradually in order to avoid injuries.

    Ambition is great, but not if it gets the best of you. Click this link to review some great beginner programs.

  2. Don't work out on a full stomach: Actually I can tell a huge difference when I work out on an empty stomach. I have so much more energy.

    Remember that human growth hormone I spoke of a few paragraphs back?

    Well, I recently read a couple of articles that said if you want to maximize your human growth hormone (HGH) release, do your workout on an empty stomach. Especially stay away from simple carbohydrates before. Now if you're working out for somewhat longer than an hour, such as training for a marathon, etc., this does not apply.

  3. Don't work out in the wrong shoes: This made a huge difference in my ability! I was trying to run in some old gym shoes I had. My son and his girlfriend took pity on me and bought me a gift card which I was to use to purchase a good pair of shoes.

    I LOVE my special shoes!

    Remember though, just because Brand X's new shoe works great for your friend doesn't mean they're right for you. And just because you're new and not working out that much yet, or unsure that you're going to stick with the sport, doesn't mean you can run in the shoes you use for the gym or classes or basketball. Believe me!

    You need shoes that are appropriate to your foot, your body, and your work out.

  4. Don't ignore form: When you're new is the time to develop good form habits. You don't just run with your legs.

    In order for your body to run efficiently, it must be well-aligned from top to bottom. With your head up, shoulders relaxed, and leading with a proud chest, you will leave your upper body working as one with the legs and not working against them.

    Something that made a huge difference for me is to make sure your arms are bent to approximately 90 degrees, and avoiding swinging across the body.

  5. Pace smart: Listen to your body and the cues it's sending you. This way you learn from every workout.

    Many runners, old and new, tend to start too aggressively in races and training runs, and then they slow down. That's because it feels easy at first. No matter how hard the first mile felt, if you had to slow down on the second mile, you'd be better served to start slower next time. Focus and learn.

  6. Stretch: Many runners keep seeing the same injuries popping up, and they are usually avoidable.

    Excess tightness in certain muscles, the gluts especially, leads the body to move in inefficient patterns, and injuries can often happen as a result of this compensation.

    Remember, a 5k will see you hitting the ground close to 5000 times! 5000 repeats of a motion the body isn't built for is a good way to get injured. Make sure your muscles are loose and your body is able to function the way it was meant to by properly stretching after your work out.

  7. Maintain cadence: What is cadence? Cadence refers to the rate at which your feet hit the ground. When you learn to run with shorter, quicker strides, your body will spend less time in the air meaning there is less impact each time you land.

    By bringing the foot down more quickly you will also avoid over-striding, which results in a small braking effect each time you land.

    I have read that a great cadence target for the recreational runner is 90 strikes per minute per foot, or 22-24 in 15 seconds. At this rate you can run at any speed; the difference is in your stride length.

  8. Side stitches: Many beginners experience side stitches, or pains.

    According to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Men, there is a remedy for "side stitches"......When running, people often exhale as their right foot hits the ground. This puts downward pressure on the liver (which lives on the right side), which then tugs at the diaphragm and creates a side stitch.

    The fix: Exhale as your left foot strikes the ground. It works!

  9. Cold weather work outs: If you're going to run in the cold, watch out for pulling anything. Stretch a little, do a light jog for a minute or two, then stretch some more. Cold weather can be brutal to train in.
  10. Arms: Since this activity doesn't do much to tone the arms, you may need to add some weight-bearing workouts to your weekly routine to keep those arm muscles from sagging.
  11. A few more things to think about: Don't increase your distance more than 10% per week, and don't eat anything new the day before or the day of your races. :)

    Also, try to enjoy the social aspects. A lot of towns have small groups of runners who meet up once a week and go for a run and then have coffee, or a smoothie, afterward. That's a great way to meet new people and enjoy your work out that much more.

I hope this information will help you get started on your own program. If you aren't interested in this sport, try something else. The important thing is to get active!

My enjoyment and appreciation of this sport came in my forties because of anxiety issues and a desire to maintain a healthy weight, but I wish I had started sooner.

I began with a group called "Women Can Run" training for a 5K. I don't really care about races or marathons, I simply enjoy the workout. My work out time is my personal time to think about things in my life and/or to listen to my favorite music.

Don't expect to run a 5K the first week, but it will eventually happen. Something to remember also is the dropoff rate is steep if you ever stop.

Anyway, it's a great workout, and it can be rough at the start, but it is very addictive. It really makes me feel good!

I just hope it does the same for you.

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