5 Crazy Benefits Of Running
Guaranteed To Get You Going
I picked up another block of wood and prepared to take the long haul to the burn pile. My cousin, Cliff (name changed), chuckled.
"And you won't believe what I've started doing since Laura (name also changed) and I broke up," he said.
He waited for me to collect the last piece of wood I could possibly carry before walking to our smoldering fire.
"I've started running. Not very far, but after the breakup, I needed a way to get rid of some energy. A few weeks ago I Forrest Gump-ed it, haven't looked back."
He was right.
I didn't believe it.
My cousin Cliff had pretty much sworn off all exercise since the day he finished high school wrestling, which he only did for one season. And when my exercise routine had come up in the past, he consistently reminded me that he would never run unless someone was chasing him.
In the midst of his heartbreak, Cliff had discovered some powerful benefits of going for a jog. His realization inspired me to create this post, so here are some crazy, awesome, ridiculous benefits of running that are guaranteed to get you off the couch and onto the track.
Hope you, dear awesome reader, enjoy.
Kiss Your Stress Goodbye
As my cousin Cliff so nicely pointed out for us, running works as an incredible stress reliever.
And honestly, who isn't stressed in today's world?
If you've got relationship problems of any color, work related hassles, family turbulence, or just need to get some time away, running may serve as the perfect escape for you.
In fact, many of my runs nowadays aren't for exercise purposes at all; I just love to turn on some tunes, ignore all my notifications, and let my imagination run loose!
For those of us who suffer with science, it should be enough to say that running relieves stress because it gets your mind off of things.
For those of us who want to unleash the inner nerd, here's how it works:
When you engage in moderate to high levels of physical activity, the brain gets a nice dose of neurotransmitters called endorphins.
Endorphins are awesome.
If you've ever felt a nice after finishing a complex task, winning a game, watching your favorite team put the smack on the other side, or enjoyed some nice time with the Significant O, endorphins are probably responsible for these feelings.
Endorphins are commonly considered a "good-mood" signal to the brain and are usually released after a bout of stress.
A Venezuelan study on mice found that mice who were allowed to run before a stressful tasks (being dunked in water) experienced significantly less stress than mice who were not allowed to run due to some goings-on in the ventral hippocampus. (source)
Whether you simply want to get your mind off your hectic life, want to release some endorphins, or want to hack your hippocampus, running will probably help you do it.
Running is an excellent stress-reliever.
Bring On The Donuts
I will be the first to tell you that I mostly work out so I can eat whatever I want later on in the day.
Sure, exercise is great for mental health, helps me get laser-focused, and who doesn't want that hot bod (more on all this later), but full disclosure: I love to eat junk food.
Bring on them donuts, baby.
Running is a calorie burning machine.
If you'd like to check how many calories you can burn during a run, here is a link to a neat little running calculator. I input my results and for a three mile run, I burned 476 calories. Calculated in full, that's about 954 calories per hour.
Am I the only one who said "Wow" when I saw that?
Running burns calories for a few reasons. First, it increases your oxygen absorption. According to David Swain, a professor at Old Dominion University and expert on exercise science (full credentials on the ODU website), continuous activities burn about five calories per liter of oxygen consumed.
If you've ever had to make a quick dash for your car after leaving a sports game (as I did last night), then you know that running will suck down some wind.
Second, running is quite a complex movement and significantly more complex than walking.
When we walk, our center of gravity is high and generally held pretty evenly over our legs.
Running is a different story. When we run, we are actually jumping from one foot to the other foot. Not only does this cause us to move forward, but it also causes us to move upward. This is one of the reasons why running and walking do not consume the same amount of calories per mile: running involves an additional upward movement. (source).
I do think it is beneficial here to contrast between Gross Calorie Burn (GCB) and Net Calorie Burn (NCB).
Gross Calorie Burn is how many calories you've burned total, no matter what you're doing. If you weigh 150 pounds and go running for half an hour, you may burn about 350 calories. Here's the calculator I use if you want to input your own weight, time, and distance ran.
In the example situation above, your GCB is 350 calories.
Warning: This is about to get nerdy. If you aren't interested in the math, just scroll down to the next section titled "End Nerd Section"
Knowing how many calories you burned in a specific activity is great, but the human body burns calories no matter what we're doing. If you're just sitting there eating potato chips and watching the Kardashians, you're burning calories.
This is where Net Calorie Burn comes in handy.
NCB shows us how many calories we burned running, walking, or doing whatever activity we choose. It factors out how many calories you would have burned just by living and gives you only the calories you burned doing that specific activity.
To determine NCB, we take GCB and subtract how many calories we would have burned in the same time period by doing nothing.
To know how many calories we would have burned by doing nothing, we need to know your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). The BMR calculates exactly what you burn in a day by laying on the couch binging on Netflix.
There is a formula for calculating BMR that's a bit complex, so here's a calculator to your numbers in. Get your BMR, divide it by how many minutes are in a day (1440) and multiply by how many minutes you did your activity for.
So for example, let's say I, a 210 pound 6'2" 20ish year old male went for a run for 30 minutes. I ran three miles and burned about 475 calories.
475 is my Gross Calories Burned, or GCB. It is my total calories burned over the course of my run.
But how many calories did I burn because of my run?
We take GCB and subtract BMR for 30 minutes. My BMR burns approximately 2200 calories per day. Divide 2200 by 1440 (minutes per day) and you get 1.528. That's how many calories I burn per minute just by living.
Multiply 1.528 by minutes ran (30) and you end up with 45.84. That is how many calories I burn in 30 minutes by sitting.
So to get my Net Calories Burned by my 30 minute run, we take GCB of 475, subtract my BMR for 30 minutes of 45.84, and we see that running burned about 429 calories.
Pretty sweet, huh?
End Nerd Section
As we can see here, running burns an astronomical amount of calories. Even if you are relatively light weight, run a short distance, and run slowly, running will burn a significant amount of calories for you.
So bring on the donuts. I'm going for a run today.
Mental And Emotional Power
Most people who have been for a quick job can attest to the fact that running can clear the mind like few other tasks are capable of doing.
Running is a great time to turn on some music, listen to an audiobook, think about your dreams (my preferred method), or simply clear your mind.
Running has the incredible power to increase your mental clarity. This is partially due to the feel-good chemicals it releases in your brain such pheromones mentioned earlier, but oddly enough, running allows your mind to rest.
Many of the tasks we do throughout the day are mentally active. When we write, answer emails, check our phones, speak to others, or almost any other task we do during our day, we are forcing our brains to provide feedback and new instructions on a regular basis.
Research shows that this activity of decision making will literally exhaust our brains throughout the day. (source). This is why after a long day, it feels good to relax. It is our brain's way of telling us that it's beat!
While mentally active tasks wear on the brain, mentally passive tasks do not.
Activities that require little feedback or new instructions fall into this mentally passive category.
Activities like walking your dog, going for a jog, watching Netflix, or playing a card game all fall into the mentally passive category because these tasks usually require relatively few decisions.
These passive tasks allow your brain to take a break from reality, recuperate, and go back to decision making like a champ.
These tasks are essentially like little naps for our brain and after having spent some time in a passive activity, it is easy to tell a difference in your mental strength levels.
Running serves as a powerful mentally passive activity because it is relatively low in decision making and it releases those good feels, meaning that you get a double dose of mental strength.
Not only does running help clear the mind, research indicates that it also helps to preserve it.
According to the science, running improves memory (source), improves spatial awareness, cognitive ability, and overall mental health (source), and prevented the brains from shrinking in test subjects over 70 (source).
Exercise was shown to be more helpful than mentally active activities such as brain games at preserving mental health, particularly in the prevention of brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain. (source).
So if you're feeling stressed or like your thoughts just aren't working at max capacity, try going for a quick tour de park or track. You will notice your mind drifting to other things and your brain will start to make you feel extra good when it's over.
You'll be walking around with extra brain power.
To make things even better, running shows signs of being able to help with depression. In a study comparing subjects to 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity on a treadmill (high intensity walking or a regular jog) to subjects who sat in quiet reflection for 30 minutes, both test groups reported feeling increased senses of well-being and an improved mood.
The exercise group, however, reported feeling better than those who sat in silence. (source).
Perhaps this is due to the fact that running gets our minds off the weighty tasks of the day, that it releases feel-good signals to our brains, or some other variable, but the science is clear: running serves as a powerful aid to emotional distress.
Running can improve our mental and emotional suffering.
One Hot Bod Inside And Out
Remember that time you met that person who wanted to be extremely overweight, have high cholesterol, and be a proud owner of a heart that pumped like it was trying to go out of business early?
No one has met that person.
That person doesn't exist.
Running is absolutely one of the best exercises you can do for your physical health. For those looking to not be that person above with the big gut and bigger heart problems, you may want to consider heading to the track for a bit.
Here are just a few of the physical benefits of running, in no particular order.
Extends Your Life: A recent study showed an association between running and living longer. In fact, this study said that for every hour of running, you may be extending your life up to 7 hours. (source).
Granted, running certainly won't make you immortal. The results of the study showed that the extended life from running usually plateaus out at about 3 years. Even so, a 600% return on your investment of time is nothing to be scoffed at.
3 years is a lot of time.
Better Bod: As mentioned above, running burns calories. A lot of calories. When paired with a weights routine, running serves as an excellent way to really tone up and bring out those beautiful (hidden) abdominals.
Not only does running burn calories, however, but it also strengthens your muscles. For anyone looking to build up that booty, there aren't many better workouts you can do than one that is exclusively lower body.
Joint Strength: Believe it or not, evidence shows that running isn't bad for your joints.
It's good for them.
A study involving 2637 people showed a correlation between running and low joint or bone pain. (source). While running may not have been the cause, there is no denying the correlation.
This is possibly due to stronger leg muscles causing less stress to be placed on joints like the knee, leading to a less damaged joint over time.
Inner Health: This one is a biggy, as running does a lot of stuff to your innards.
Running also increases our heart's ability to process oxygen by boosting what is called our VO2 Max. A person's VO2 Max is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can process during intense exercise.
How much oxygen your body can process is roughly the gauge of your overall fitness level. To make things even better, the more oxygen your heart can process, the less heavily you'll be breathing during exercises.
Deploy Your Discipline Superpowers
Over the course of my life, I have come to believe that humans really do have superpowers.
We have the ability to continue on in the face of opposition, to endure when times get difficult, and to create incredible things through spending our time and passion.
You and I can observe the world around us, see problems, and then create solutions.
What superpower is greater than the ability to have a powerful, lasting impact on the world and lives around you?
You have superpowers. It is only a matter of whether or not you unlock them.
Even though all humans are capable of being who they want to be, doing what they want to do, and living how they want to live, very few people would say that they are happy with their standard of life right now.
Many people find themselves in situations that they are not proud of, living lives that are not in line with their dreams. The reasons for this type of unsatisfied living are deep and wide, but the solution is always the same:
If you find yourself living a life that isn't in line with who you want to be and what you want to do, you have the ability to change it.
Start right now.
Change your circumstances.
It will not be easy, it will not be fun, but it will be worth it!
And the first step in changing your circumstances is to develop the mindset of a person who can endure things that are neither easy or fun.
You must develop discipline.
Running is an excellent way to strengthen your "won't stop, won't quit, won't give in until I reach my goal" muscles. There is simply something very powerful about taking one more step through the (temporary) pain to reach a (bigger, long-lasting) goal.
Running builds discipline from the scheduling your run, to starting, all the way through to the very end.
And discipline is your superpower.
I believe that there are two ways to increase your discipline.
1) Your Confidence
Running has made me a better person because I can constantly set goals, work hard to achieve them, and feel the surge of adrenaline and confidence once my accomplishment has been realized.
No other feeling in the world quite compares to a silent confidence in your own skills and abilities because there is something inherently powerful in knowing that you are capable of accomplishing what you set your mind to.
Sometimes, each step can be agony during a run. But pushing through that pain will bring you to a place that you've never been before, a place that exists within the quiet domains of your mind.
Your most important asset in life is you and when you accomplish your goals, push past your suffering, you begin to realize something:
When you want to be, you are powerful.
It's not mumbo jumbo. It's not self-help hype.
You have the ability to influence the world around you no matter your circumstances. Running simply helps you to see that you are capable of doing what you believe it.
It is a bridge, a segue. It only leads to bigger and better things.
2) Getting Tougher
There's a lot to be valued in mental work capacity, no doubt.
But at some point you've just gotta get started and do it.
At some point you've just gotta dig down, get into the nitty gritty, and stop allowing your naysayers to be your dreamkillers.
At some point you've just gotta tough it out.
I've done exercises of all color: body weight, TRX training, various types of yoga, and competition weightlifting.
But there is something particularly mentally tough about going one more mile when your legs are exhausted.
Running not only develops your confidence in yourself, but it literally makes you tougher. Mental toughness and physical toughness are a direct product of your putting one foot in front of another and this toughness is delicious food for your developing discipline.
Discipline is your superpower. Discipline is how you accomplish your dreams.
With it, you can change the world. Just remember to start on the track.
I will have you know that while writing this post, I was inspired three different times to go for a jog.
Tell us in the comments below: What's your favorite benefit of going for a quick jog?
And if you're looking to maximize you're time spent running, here are a few reasons you should add a sprint to the end of your jog.
Thanks for reading.
Stay awesome. Have a great day.
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