In It for The Long Run

Live Healthy

Running – some live by it, some do it because they know they should, and some don’t even take the first step because the thought alone is too intimidating. 

“It is important to stay active and fit. Exercise is just one of the components of living a healthy, active lifestyle, and running is one of the ways to do it,” says Dr. Spencer Chang, an orthopedic surgeon at Straub Medical Center. 

“Now, it’s not essential that we all run, but it may be just the perfect exercise for a lot of us out there,” Chang says. “Running can be fun, and it also works on cardiovascular fitness, which is essential in maintaining a healthy heart. Running may also help to keep things like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension in check.” 

Running is very accessible, relatively cheap and extremely flexible when it comes to beginning a training program. Running programs give you the freedom to run either on a street, track, trail or treadmill. 

You will have to purchase running shoes and workout clothes – usually required by most physical activities – but with running, the gym or fitness class membership fees are optional. 

Short sprints, interval training, a mile jog, a 10K race, a marathon, an ultramarathon – what interests you the most? Whatever your distance of choice, give it a go! 

Here, Chang shares some health benefits that will make you want to hit the ground running: 

  • Cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Some studies have shown running as little as 10 minutes a day can greatly decrease your chances of getting cardiovascular disease. The more you exercise, the healthier your heart can be, and the risk of cardiovascular disease decreases even more. 
  • Mental health. Running is a physical activity; however, it has many benefits when it comes to mental health. When running, serotonin and endorphins are released into the body. These chemicals are responsible for relieving stress, decreasing depression and keeping you happy long after the workout is completed. 
  • Down the pounds. Running helps you burn calories, and burning more calories than you consume is essential for weight loss. One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories – let that be the fuel to your fire, literally. 
  • Physiological and anatomical health. While resistance training is a good activity to increase muscle strength and bone density, studies have shown that running can be just as efficient if not more efficient in achieving the same outcomes. 
  • Sleep well. Everyone appreciates a good night’s rest. Exerting energy when running can help you have a more restful sleep, and having more sleep will contribute greatly to having better runs. What a great cycle that can go hand-in-hand with your exercise and other daily goals! 
  • Increase in self-confidence. When you are ready, sign up for a race that will be challenging for you. Not only could this be an opportunity to support a local nonprofit or cause that’s close to your heart, but it also will feel good to set goals for yourself and then achieve them! There is no greater feeling than to know that you fought through the tough days, celebrated the great days, and conquered your goal in the end. You got this! 

The first step out the door is by far the hardest one to take. OK, the first two weeks of getting back into training are actually pretty tough too. But just stick with it for the long run, and the benefits you reap will be worth every stride!

Published on: February 15, 2016