No, running is not everyone’s favorite form of exercise. The mindless jarring forward with little-to-no reprieve can last fifteen, twenty or thirty minutes before a solid, worthwhile distance run is knocked out for the day. By the end, you’re out of breath, sweaty and, if you don’t eat quickly, feeling pretty weak. The exercise is often put off in favor of throwing weights around the gym, or simply just collapsing on the couch. “When am I ever going to need to run for fifteen minutes straight?” That’s the usual argument from those who tend to enjoy lifting more, as if they are going to need to lift 300 lbs off their chest someday.
Like any PT, the health benefits are apparent. It’s the one form of exercise that’s present in virtually every form of professional physical activity — football players, boxers, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, firefighters, police officers — despite their unique job-specific workouts, they’re all either required or strongly encouraged to run. It is also a popular stress reliever among the non-physical job population, not to mention all the avid runners out there who just like doing it.
The obvious answer is that running (well, cardio) is good for the heart. The biggest killer in the United States is one you don’t tend to hear on the news so much: heart disease. According to The American Heart Association, “Cardiovascular disease, listed as the underlying cause of death, accounts for nearly 836,546 deaths in the US. That’s about 1 of every 3 deaths in the US.” It kills more people than cancer or car accidents and certainly more than terrorism or homicide.
One of the best ways to combat heart disease is aerobic exercise — running is an easy choice, since you don’t need any equipment, and you don’t need a pool or a track. Most people can walk right out their door, or at least go on a five minute drive, and begin to run (so long as the joints allow it). This helps blood pressure, cholesterol and prevents weight gain, leading to a longer life.
Stanford tracked 538 runners over the age of 50 for over 20 years, following them side-by-side with non-runners. As the years went on, some began to die from various health complications and others lived on. They all filled out questionnaires regarding their daily lifestyles and habits, and most of the runners averaged four hours of running a week to begin with; by the end of the study were managing 76 minutes a week on average. When it came to the inevitable disabilities with old age, Professor of Medicine Dr. James Fries MD said that the “Runners’ initial disability was 16 years later than nonrunners … By and large, the runners have stayed healthy.”
All in all, Dr. Fries said that “Elderly runners have fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life and are half as likely as aging nonrunners to die early deaths, the research found.”
However, running is not fun for everyone. There is something to be said about people incentivizing themselves to conduct necessary tasks that they may not enjoy, otherwise it’s realistically not going to happen as much. Swimming is a low-impact, muscular workout that works cardio like non-other. Biking offers enjoyable scenery and long distances that couldn’t be covered in short amounts of time on foot. Aerobic-heavy sports can be tough on the body, but can prove to be significantly more enjoyable and literally make a game of exercise that can be completely engrossing.
Whatever your chosen form of cardio is, get out there and do it — for your body’s sake.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.