Last week was the Boston Marathon, one of the most prestigious long-distance running events in the country. Runners from across the globe come to compete and all levels of competitive runners from novice to Olympic prospects complete the same 26.2 mile course.
Long-distance running is not only a challenge for the body, but also for the mind. But let’s dive a little deeper in what this really means: how is the mind and body affected by running?
On the positive side, running provides a full body cardio workout that promotes muscle strengthening and toning, calorie burning, fat loss and sometimes weight loss when paired with a balanced diet. Jogging or running, a moderate intensity aerobic exercise, is correlated to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease when consistently done (ideally around 150 minutes or 2.5 hours a week).
Additionally, many people who run experience a “runner’s high,” which is an positive mental state during or after exercise due to the increase of endorphins. Aerobic activities have also shown to help decrease stress and even alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. Aerobic activity also typically helps people to sleep better, have overall improved moods and boost their ability to focus. There are a ton of benefits from such a simple exercise, which nearly everyone can do in some variation. The limited barrier to entry of running is also a beautiful thing because no equipment or fancy gym membership is required.
Unfortunately, running like any exercise can also be detrimental to one’s health. A few of the most common adverse effects are decreased bone density and inflammation, particularly in the lower back, legs and feet. Given the repetitive motion of running and the frequent mistake of over-training, some people experience extended inflammation in the back, hips, knees and ankle joints. It’s very normal to have some inflammation after working out, but our bodies begin to adapt as we continue to workout.
When long distance runners begin to overtrain, the body cannot recover and the inflammation can cause irreversible damage. Additionally, depending on where a person runs, the impact of running on our joints, particularly for competitive long-distance runners, can experience loss of bone density over a prolonged period of time. Bone density is imperative to one’s health, especially in regards to back health.
All in all, unless you are competitively training on a daily basis and are running some serious distances, running will likely be a healthy exercise option that should be integrated into your routine. The benefits of running, jogging and walking almost always outweigh the negatives. Thus, as the rain clears and we head into the beautiful Pacific Northwest springtime, we all at Kuether Brain and Spring wish you all: happy running!