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The health benefits of running (and jogging)

Young woman jogging through the parkRunning is one of the best types of exercise and is very good for your health. It provides a great cardiovascular workout, and it also strengthens your muscles. Regular jogging not only improves cardiovascular fitness, it has also been shown to have other health benefits, including mental health benefits such as helping to manage depression and anxiety. Most importantly for many people, running is a good way to lose weight and generally get fitter.

Regular running and jogging is a good way to improve your health and fitness. You do not need to become a marathon runner to benefit greatly from running. You also should not be overly concerned about long-term damage to joints such as knees, ankles and hips, as a result of running because with good quality running shoes and a sensible approach, the risks are minimal, and the benefits of being fitter outweigh those possible risks.

The cardiovascular improvements that jogging provides are of greatest importance to many people as makes the heart stronger and more efficient, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and heart failure. The improvements in blood circulation and respiratory health which result from regular exercise is essentially what we call “fitness“.

Running also speeds up the digestive system and can help to relieve digestive problems. Many people who live a sedentary lifestyle develop digestive problems that can be improved with a healthier diet and some regular exercise.

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Does jogging help you to lose weight?

Jogging makes you burn fat and thereby helps to lose weight. In addition to increasing metabolism, jogging is an effective way to burn more calories, which helps you lose weight. If calories consumed in food are less than calories spent during exercise and other daily activities, you will lose weight. It is impossible not to! Many people have learned how to lose belly fat by starting a running program.

Jogging helps to reduce stubborn belly fat. Stubborn fat can be very hard to shift, but a running program can really help to cut down on the last of your stubborn fat. The key is to think long-term and always work on your fitness. Change can take a long time to come but the end result it much improved fitness and strength which makes maintaining a healthy weight so much easier.

If you suffer from poor appetite, jogging will improve your appetite. Along with all other forms of exercise – the harder you work, the more you need to eat to repair your muscles and refuel them. When you start to run longer distances you will start to eat to fuel your body, and may even find that you need to eat more food everyday, than you did when you were overweight. As you develop your running you need to ensure that you are eating well, so read up on some nutrition advice for runners.

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Jogging for stronger bones and muscles

Jogging will strengthen the muscles and bone density of your legs, hips and back. Long distance runners have very strong legs, even though they often look very thin and weak. Running does not produce bulky muscles, like weight training or even circuit training does, but it does increase leg strength. Also, the constant impact caused during running can increase bone density, so long as you follow a healthy diet.

Running improves sleep

Jogging makes you sleep better. Also, if you exercise well, sleep comes much easier. One of the most important factors for improving fitness after exercise and diet is getting adequate sleep. Overtraining can occur if you do not rest properly.

Advice on jogging with colds and flu

Research carried out by Professor Mike Gleeson from Loughborough University and presented to the Association for Science Education (ASE) Conference in January 2011 found that gentle aerobics, such as jogging, helps to ward off colds and flu by up to 33%. However, running long distances and training for a marathon will make you around 6 times more likely to pick up a virus.

It is not just jogging that helps to boost the immune system, a daily brisk walk has the same effect. The research found that most types of intensive exercise increases the chances of catching a cold. This is not really a new finding as many athletes and runners have been well aware of this all their lives!

Training tips and stretching techniques

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Running and mental health improvements

Running can counteract depression, as all forms of exercise can help people cope with depression. It increases the capacity to work and lead an active life. The fitter you are, the more active you can be. There are so many more opportunities available to people who are healthier and fitter.

Learning to enjoy running

Running can give you both physical and mental joy, so long you do not exhaust yourself! When jogging is done correctly, you will actually feel less tired after you have finished a tour than before you began. You may even start to enjoy the feelings in your muscles during the jogging and afterwards.

Running is a great way of getting away from your usual daily environment. Running outside is often much more pleasurable than exercising in a gym. Even running in the rain can be refreshing and pleasurable. While running some people also get an euphoric mental feeling – a “runners high”!

Planning your jogging route

Jogging may be performed in a lot of ways. Long distance jogging generally covers 6-20 km, at a moderate speed on even roads or paths. Short distance jogging covers 3-6 km in a faster pace. Jogging upwards in a steep terrain 3-4 km, in a speed adjusted to the steepness. Jogging in a hilly terrain with paths going both up and down 4-8 km.

It is advisable to vary the type of jogging from day-to-day, and to find several different routes to run. By running different routes you create more variety, which helps to keep you motivated. Also, by having a set of routes of varying distance, you can develop a weekly running schedule, which includes both short fast runs and longer slower runs.

Planning a running session

You should start out at a slower pace for a few minutes if you have not warmed up already. Then you gradually increase to a comfortable speed. Once you become familiar with a few different routes, you will quickly learn the best pace for you, and also will know when to push yourself a little harder.

Timing each run is a great way to monitor improvements. Some days you may feel that you have not run so well, but the time on the clock may show that you have actually matched your personal best. Read George Gandy’s (Seb Coe’s trainer) Top Running Tips

Stretching before and after each workout

It is now advisable to only stretch after each jogging session, and not before, for three to four minutes. When stretching out do the following movements:

  • Bend forward and touch your toes.
  • Kneel down on one of your feet, and stretch the other out backwards.
  • Bend your body to both sides.
  • Stretch out an arm, grab something, and turn your body round so that your arm is bent backwards.
  • Shoot your abdomen forward, so that your spinal column is stretched into a bow.
  • Place your hands behind your neck and stretch your arms backwards. Then twist your body to the left and right, and also bend to each side.

After the jogging it is often advisable to wait for a few minutes to regain your breath and relax before you stretch out.

Planning your running schedule

If jogging is the only sport activity done, then a jogging session every other day is ideal. This is enough to give all the health benefits and gradually increase your condition and endurance without wearing yourself out. If you combine jogging with other types of sport activities, then running twice a week may be enough.

You should not be too hungry before jogging, but it is not advisable to take a jogging session straight after a big meal. The time of the day does not matter, what is most important is that you run at a time that suits your lifestyle. If you are planning a long morning run it is best to have a drink and snack before you head out.

Are We Born To Run? Christopher McDougall believes that running is what humans are meant to do

Verrazano Bridge New York MarathonWhy do humans run? Is running what humans are evolved for? Christopher McDougall certainly thinks so.

In the TED Talk below, he talks about how Derartu Tulu won the New York marathon at the age of 37 after a long break from running and even stopped to aid Paula Radcliffe in the process. He also talks about the Mexican tribe that run to live.

The main topic is really about how running seems to be what humans are designed to do and that if more people ran, many health problems could be eliminated. Watch his talk below.

Humans Sweat – This Makes Us Better Runners

One interesting factor is that humans are excelled sweaters. This makes us naturally excellent long distance runners as we can control core body temperature very well.

Also running in a pack is possibly a very natural way to run. When people run in a pack they naturally stick together, cooperate and encourage each other. Christopher McDougall uses this idea to explain why the Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu stopped to help another runner in a competition race, a race that she was actually running as she desperately needed the cash prize.

Running Shoes Work Against Nature?

Running injuries are a new problem. Christopher McDougall believes that barefoot running is the answer. He strongly believes that if we can somehow restore running to everyone’s lives then many weight problems will be overcome. Christopher McDougall is a barefoot runner, and distance runner, and firmly believes that this is how humans should exercise.

Christopher McDougall Talk from TED.com (16 minutes)

This is a really insightful talk about running. Many people are critical of running as a way of getting fit, believing it to cause long-term damage to joints and cause arthritis. However, humans seems to be designed to run. Or to be more precise, we evolved to run.

We did not take the same evolutionary route as the other great apes who continued to dwell in forests, we ventured out on to the open plains where it was vital to be able to cover large distances to find food and water.

One interesting question which sometimes comes up concerns running and children. Many people feel that running is something which should be avoided until we get older, become teenagers. However, there are many children who run long distances from an early age.

There is an interesting article by William O. Roberts in the Running Times which tells the story of a father and son who ran together. Although the father did not think that his 10-year-old son was ready for longer distances, the boy trained by him self by running around the block where they lived. He did 56 laps of the block which equalled 26 miles, and then informed his dad that he was ready to run a marathon.

They then ran the marathon together and finished together in the 4-5 hour range. At the request of race organisers the boy had to visit the medical tent but was found to be perfectly well, in fact he looked better than most adults.

“To date, none of the under 18 entrants have required care in the medical tent at the marathon finish line.” William O. Roberts, MD.

William Roberts points out that there is no evidence to suggest that running is bad of health.

Considering we are faced with a continuing obesity epidemic with more children become less active and more overweight, it cannot be right to discourage children or adults from running long distances if they want to, especially as it may be the most natural way to exercise and stay healthy.

William Roberts goes on in his article to make some suggestions for children and adolescents and the creation of rules for participating in long distance races. His main concerns are not so much the race themselves but the level of training that a child needs to do to prepare themselves for a race.

“Races that do allow children and adolescents to enter should consider tracking them for injury and well-being. If we, as a running community, can monitor the activity, we may be able to develop evidence based recommendations that reflect data and not supposition.” William O. Roberts, MD.

What do you think is most natural, running long distances of playing football?

Ran Faster With The Loughborough Circuit

A great circuit training workout to compliment your running is the Loughborough Circuit, which was created by Coach George Gandy and helped Seb Coe go on to become a double Olympic Gold Winner.

How To Start Running

If you are not accustomed to physical activity before you start jogging, it is advisable to consult a doctor before you start. You may have health issues that are not compatible with jogging activities, or some conditions that you must consider when doing your jogging.

The first times, you should only jog on plain ground and only for 10 minutes. Then you can increase the time, distance and speed, and choose steeper and more difficult paths. Keep building on distance and speed each week and when you can add in some longer runs.

Always plan your runs well so that you know how long and how far you are going to run even if you are just planning a short run around the block. This gets you into the habit of setting goals and as you improve your fitness it will be easier to plan longer and more challenging runs.

Just aim to improve a little every week. Work on increasing your speed and the distance you run. This will build up your strength and fitness and over time you will start to run much longer distances. Following some specific Running Workouts can help you to speed up your running fitness.

Remember, as Confucius said, “it does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop“. Keep on running and in time you will get fitter and healthier.

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  776 comments for “The health benefits of running (and jogging)

  1. James
    September 8, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I absolutely loved the video, my thoughts exactly. Thank you as well for all the other interesting and helpful information, just what I was looking for. Much appreciated, and again, thank you.

  2. nabin
    October 14, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I am doing regular jogging for 35 to 40 min but i have problem of my both leg heel pain since 2 years now so should i stopped or start walk only suggest me ? Thank you

  3. MotleyHealth
    October 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Hi Nabin, a two year heel injury is not good. You should consider stopping jogging and seeking treatment. Sounds like you will need to speak to a registered physiotherapist.

  4. mallikarjun
    December 5, 2013 at 11:57 am

    i am 5’7″ and 155 pounds how much distance should i run daily
    as of now i am running 3miles and i am feeling confortable

  5. MotleyHealth
    December 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Hi Malliukarjun, assuming you are in good health generally, as far as you are happy to run. What are your goals? Regular five mile runs a day would certainly get you fitter and improve your running.

  6. tabithaoyelola
    January 7, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I love this site. I am impressed with what i have read. Though am in the practice now, jogging early in the morning. But it come to a stage, when i get started i did great but, the sameday in the evening i have started feeling pains on my body. When i woke up the following day i get weaker and feeling more pains……..pls, what can i do? Help me out

  7. MotleyHealth
    January 7, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Hi Tabithaoyelola, hard to say really. Where are the pains? In your legs, feet, knees, hips, or somewhere else? Sharp pain of dull ache? It could be normal post-exercise aching you are experiencing. Have you done any other exercise recently?

  8. tabithaoyelola
    January 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    All in thbe back and my twok lapses. What can i really do? Am not engaging myself into any other exercise than that..

  9. MotleyHealth
    January 8, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Start with some more gentle runs and then stretch well afterwards. Then take a warm bath and allow the muscles to relax. Massage may help too. Wait for recovery and then jog again. If the problem continues you should see a doctor / physio for further advice.

  10. Kumail
    April 23, 2014 at 11:52 am

    how to increase height at the age of 17.

  11. MotleyHealth
    April 23, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Hi Kumail, all you can do is eat healthy, take exercise and give your genetics every chance to reach their maximum potential. There is no other way to gain extra height – those other websites and ebooks are a scam.

  12. dee
    May 6, 2014 at 5:42 am

    So I have decided to start running because I truly do not like the way I look or feel. I don’t want to waste money on the gym yet, until I’m 100% committed to this. I figure If I can keep up with the running for at least 2 weeks then I will be able to commit to the gym. I started off doing 1 mile but I run 1/2 of the mile and walk the other 1/2 I figure by next week that I will be able to run the entire mile. Then by the week after I want to run the mile and walk a mile. Am I wasting my time or will I see progress by this method

  13. MotleyHealth
    May 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Dee, you are not wasting your time. Stick to it. It takes time, but every week you will be fitter and healthier for it. Do as much as you can as often as you can. Just don’t give up.

  14. Himal
    May 28, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Good article! I have a question. I have been running 6-8 Kms 2-3 times a week since more than a year. I have lost some weight, specially in legs, thighs areas but I am not able to reduce my bellyfat. Any tips?

  15. MotleyHealth
    May 29, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Hi Himal, two things:

    1. increase running: do interval sprints on some days. Fartlek / metabolic conditioning is your friend.
    2. improve diet. Cut out sugar, excess calories. Go lean, eat protein.

  16. aravind
    June 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

    thank you for the very detailed information

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