Dr Juliet McGrattan shares her insight on how running can benefit your overall health – with some pretty impressive stats...
We all know running is good for us. It improves the way we feel and look. Our hearts get stronger, our minds clearer and it helps us maintain the weight that we sit most comfortably at. Its benefits, however, go far beyond the obvious. In fact, there isn’t a system in the body that doesn’t benefit from running. From the top of your head to the tip of your toes, running will give you a total body workout and improve all aspects of your health! Here’s how:
Running sensibly helps to keep joints healthy. The muscles around the joints strengthen and take the pressure off the joints themselves. This reduces the risk of – and helps to treat – osteoarthritis.
Muscle strength increases with running, reducing joint problems, lowering blood pressure and improving all-round fitness. Feeling stronger can really help your body confidence, too.
Your pancreas makes insulin, which is responsible for normalising your blood sugar levels. Regular exercise and keeping your weight steady lowers your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by as much as 50 per cent.
4. Blood vessels
A healthy circulation needs normal blood pressure. New blood vessels grow as muscles strengthen and this reduces the pressure in the system. Cholesterol levels fall and atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels) is prevented.
Conditions such as psoriasis and eczema often flare up with high stress levels. The calming influence of running can help improve skin and it boosts self confidence, too, which can often be low in sufferers of long-term skin conditions.
You can halve your risk of bowel cancer by running regularly! Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms are often also relieved, by easing constipation and bloating. Stress levels are closely linked to IBS too, so running helps.
Women with polycystic ovaries are often overweight and their condition makes it harder to lose it. Regular running can be a real boost physically and psychologically. Running can ease PMT for some women, too.
Regular running helps to improve and maintain the density or strength of your bones, reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Feel-good brain chemicals and hormones are released when you run, helping to ease stress and anxiety and treat depression. In addition, your risk of dementia and stroke falls as brain circulation is kept healthy. Concentration, memory and motivation sharpen and sleep improves, too.
Regular running helps prevent eye diseases, such as glaucoma, where the internal pressure of the eye increases, which can result in blindness. You can reduce your risk of developing it by up to 25 per cent by running.
As running help to burn fat, it can significantly reduce the risk of developing “fatty liver” – an increasingly common problem where fat builds up in liver cells. In most cases it is harmless, but it’s linked to heart disease and stroke, and can occasionally become inflamed, leading to cirrhosis.
You can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 35 per cent with regular exercise. Reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, along with stopping your weight from fluctuating too much, lead to a healthier heart.
There is up to a 20 per cent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer in regular runners. If you have had breast cancer, then running regularly can reduce the risk of it recurring by as much as 40 per cent.
Running improves your lung capacity and strengthens your respiratory muscles – these are the muscles between your ribs and in your diaphragm. Your lungs also become more efficient – great news for those with asthma.
Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting women. By using running to help you maintain your weight and keep physically fit, you can reduce your risk by possibly as much as 50 per cent.
16. Sexual organs
Many women report an increase in their libido (sex drive) when they run regularly. Whether due to improved body confidence, being more relaxed or brain chemical release, it’s a benefit you can enjoy!
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