Why running is good for your health

Why running is good for your health

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How regular exercise - especially running- helps to improve health outcomes. Dr Simon Sostaric writes.

The benefits of running

Running rewards your body and mind. 

Regular running, combining a variety of durations and intensities, acts on all physiological and psychological systems in an integrated way. 

With consistency, fitness gains are imminent. Indeed, aerobic fitness is now globally recognised as one of the most significant predictors of all-cause morbidity and mortality. 

Furthermore, running provides the greatest bang for buck when it comes to developing, increasing and maintaining aerobic fitness.

Compelling adaptations to running training

  • Changes in muscle to improve regulation of insulin and glucose
  • Enhanced bone remodelling and strength (bone mineral density)
  • Enhanced fat metabolism
  • Weight loss
  • Stronger muscles, heart and lungs
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Elevated release of hormones that make you feel good
  • Reduced levels of fatigue

Why choose running over other forms of exercise?

  • We are born to run – need I say more!
  • Convenience – anytime, anywhere. Running shoes, shorts & t-shirt, and off you go
  • Bang for buck – expend 1-3 times more energy than walking, swimming, cycling
  • Fitness gains -  faster rate of change in aerobic fitness compared to other modes of exercise
  • Weight bearing – unlike swimming and cycling, running is weight bearing, important for bone and muscle health
  • Liberating – what better way to see the countryside, towns and cities

How to get the best out of your run

  • New to running? Read this first!
  • If you are affected by ill-health, see an exercise physiologist for a suitable starting point
  • A little, often, is better than a lot, less often. Eg. 20min 3-4 times per week vs 60min once per week
  • When you feel comfortable jogging 15-20min, start to incorporate short runs at a quicker pace. Steady but sustainable
  • Including 1 or 2 higher intensity interval sessions per week (see examples below) is the most effective way to improve your fitness and lower blood glucose

Sample session #1

  • Warm up - Jog easy 4min, run steady 3min, jog easy 1min
  • Hill run intervals – 20s hard, 40s walk/jog recovery; repeat x5. Increase x1 efforts each week to a maximum of x10
  • Warm down – jog easy 5min
** pace the intervals so your pace doesn’t drop away too much 

Sample session #2

  • Warm up - Jog easy 4min, run steady 2min, 3x50m hard (30s recovery), jog easy 1min
  • Park intervals – 15s hard, 15s recovery; 30s hard, 30s recovery; 45s hard, 45s recovery. 3min walk/jog, then repeat
  • Warm down – jog easy 5min
Running is medicine, good luck!

Dr Simon Sostaric is the founder of Melbourne Sports & Allied Health Clinic  and also consults rel="noopener noreferrer" in Sydney at the Inner West Allied Health & Specialist Centre