Running has always been considered as one of the best exercises in the world. Do you know why? The most obvious answers to the question will be – it helps you to lose weight, it keeps you healthy, it burns calories and cuts body fat, and it makes you active. While they are all true, running is not just about these amazing advantages. There is a lot more to it, especially the benefits of long distance running that most people are unaware of.
Humans have been running long distances since the beginning of time. It has helped us to hunt and saved us from being hunted. It has kept us active so that we can survive. It has played a crucial role in our evolution. We all are descendants of long distance runners. Our bodies are naturally designed for this activity. It is a basic human trait. Our body structure is perfect for it. Physical elements such as the Achilles tendon make our bodies ideal for running.
But in the modern world, humans don’t necessarily need to run long distances. Our survival does not depend on it. We don’t need to hunt anymore and nothing is constantly hunting us. This lack of running and physical exercise has made us physically weak. Also, because running is not in our lifestyle anymore, our bodies possess a few mild risks to running long distances like bronchospasm, blisters, cramps and bone stress injuries. It should also be noted that professional runners are far less prone to these risks than a novice runner.
So, the more regularly you run, the less likely you are of injuring yourself from long distance running. Furthermore, the physiological and psychological benefits of long distance running outweigh the risks by a substantial amount. Plus, it is the most cost-effective exercise that you can do almost anywhere.
Are you a newbie in running? Then read Proper Running Form for Beginners- Guidelines to Follow
Why our bodies are designed to run?
The anatomical structure of human bodies is perfect for long distance running. Our legs are long, which enables us to cover more distance in a single step. Further, we have spring-like tendons which give us an extra lift when we pick our feet off the ground. When we step on the ground while running, our legs and body experience a considerable force from the ground. Our skeletal structure is strong enough to withstand these high levels of shocks and stress from the run. This proves that humans evolved to become even better runners.
Top Benefits of Long Distance Running
Running long distances can be quite overwhelming for beginners. But once you know about the benefits of long-distance running, you’ll be excited to get your feet on the running track.
Need the motivation to run? Then check Running Motivation: 16 Proven Strategies to Make You Run!
1. Burns Calories
Do you know that running burns calories faster than any other physical activity or exercise in the world?
Okay, this one is an obvious but major benefit of long distance running. Nothing else can burn major calories like a long run can. It turns your body into a fat burning machine. You can burn more than 500 calories in a single 30- minute run. Running for long distances helps in improving after-burn capabilities of your body, which means that your body is capable of burning fat even after running.
Apart from burning some serious calories, running also improves your metabolism, which means that your body can now process more calories efficiently. Thus, it prevents calories from becoming body fat in the first place.
2. Helps your Body to Fight Cancer
One of the greatest benefits of long distance running is that it can help prevent cancer. Long distance running makes cancer-fighting antibodies stronger. Regular long distance runners are 50 percent less like to be affected by any kind of cancer.
3. Better Sleep
Are you a professional runner? Then you are less likely to develop insomnia or other sleep-related issues.
One of the major advantages of long distance running is that it improves the overall quality of your sleep. It also positively affects your sleeping patterns. Regular long-distance runners sleep sooner and for longer intervals of time without waking up.
According to a study conducted by the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, daily running for 30 minutes can help in enhancing psychological functions of sleep, and sleep efficiency of your body. In the study, 51 individuals comprising of both males and females were randomly divided into two groups – running group and control group. The running group ran for 30 minutes every day in the morning, for the next three weeks. The control group was assigned no physical activity during the same period.
The effective sleep of the running group was improved after three weeks. They also felt a lot more refreshed after waking up and their sleepiness during the day also reduced. Running also improves your sleeping pattern so goodbye to those afternoon naps!
4. Elevates your Mood
Want to uplift your mood? One of the best benefits of long distance running is that it can enhance the mood of the runner.
In the same study mentioned above, it was also found that people who went for daily runs for 30 minutes had better moods throughout the day. They were also able to focus more on specified tasks. Long distance running enables your body to release serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter that is known to uplift one’s mood.
Explore Running in a New Way! Read the Different Types of Running Sports
5. Boosts your Working Memory
Did you know long distance running helps in shaping and developing human intelligence?
If you are a fitness freak and regularly practice long run, then your brain functions better and you stay far away from brain diseases. It was found that long distance running has the potential to increase a person’s working memory by an average of 16 percent. The reason for this is that running long distances demands your body to be proprioceptive and tactile, which makes your brain work harder.
The brains of runners are able to process information better. The ability to remember and follow specific instructions also increases.
6. Makes You Happier
Running has a direct effect on your overall happiness. After a run, you are calm and happy. This is majorly due to the runner’s high that you feel after a good run.
While running long distances, our brain releases two hormones known as endorphins and endocannabinoids, which help us keep calm and happy. These are called happiness hormones. Endocannabinoids are our bodies’ natural variant of THC, a compound found in marijuana, which causes laughter. They also help you to reduce stress and anxiety and provide you with a sense of euphoria.
7. Improves Knee Health
It can be easily presumed that repeated impact on knees during long distance running might cause knee injuries. However, running reduces knee pain and also prevents osteoarthritis. Regular running induces oxygen into joints, bones and ligaments and throws out harmful bodily toxins and chemicals.
Weak ligaments are the major cause of severe knee pain. Running also strengthens knee ligaments. It also increases blood flow to the knee cartilage, making your knee healthier and less susceptible to degradation. Furthermore, running burns away your body fat thus reducing pressure on your knees.
8. Increases your Life Expectancy
People who run long distances regularly live far longer than people who don’t run. A group comprising of long distance runners and non-runners was observed for 21 years. They were all more than 50 years old. After 19 years, 34 percent of the total non-runners have died. On the other hand, only 15 percent of regular long distance runners have passed away in the same duration.
Long distance running provides multiple health benefits making it one of the obvious reasons which can lead to improved life expectancy.
Running has no age limit! Check out Running after 40: 9 Easy Tips to Embrace Age and Enjoy Running
9. Reduces Depression
Long distance running can also help in treating the symptoms of depression and anxiety. If people who suffer from major depression run for 30 minutes every day for a prolonged period of time, they will see signs of depression relief. Running inhibits the release of kynurenine, an amino acid which can lead to depression.
10. Makes You Masculine!
We have a good new for all the men out there! Long distance running makes you more manly. For all the men out there, long distance running can also help in secretion of testosterone, which makes you more masculine. A higher quantity of testosterone also increases your sex drive and sperm count.
It forms a nice and healthy cycle as engaging in running increases your testosterone levels which further enables you to run even more and better.
11. Improves your Hearing Capabilities
Another interesting advantage of long distance running is that it improves your hearing ability.
When you run, the overall blood flow in your body increases, which means more blood is flowing through your ears, thus increasing your ability to hear. Eardrums of a runner function better than a non-runner and he is also able to hear high and low-frequency sounds.
12. Improves your Bone Health
Long Distance running also helps in bone building.
Our bones work like muscles, so the more you train them the stronger they become. If you are a regular long distance runner, your bones will be much thicker, bigger, denser and stronger. One of the benefits of long distance running is that it prevents bone diseases like osteoporosis, which means the weakening of bones.
13. Makes your Heart Healthier
It has been proven that benefits of long distance running are good for your heart.
A stronger and healthier heart is capable of pumping blood to your muscles more efficiently. More blood flow to muscle fibers also creates more capillaries in your body, which means that more oxygen and energy can flow through your body easily. It reduces the chances of any cardiovascular disease. Running can cause a decrease in cardiovascular mortality, which in turn also increases your life expectancy by a few years.
14. Better Body Functions
The better your heart functions, the more blood it circulates throughout your body. With more blood, more oxygen is circulated as well. Our body and muscles need oxygen to work better. Consider your properly oxygenated body like a well-oiled machine. Our brain also needs an adequate amount of oxygen to work properly.
Running long distances also increases some key aerobic enzymes that help to break fuel into a usable form to our body. When you run regularly, your body is full of energy all the time.
15. Improves Immunity
Apart from being fit and healthy the other benefits of long distance running are that it enhances the immunity system. Runners are very less likely to fall sick. Their body is prepared for almost all kinds of general and seasonal diseases and due to running, their body easily fights the bacteria and germs that cause diseases.
Risks of Long Distance Running –
Even though there are tons of benefits of long distance running, there are also a few risks associated with it. You should be informed about them so as to be better prepared.
1. Muscle Inflammation
Muscle swelling and inflammation are quite common for beginner long distance runners. However, studies show that our bodies adjust to it once we start to run regularly.
2. Cardiac Arrest
Although running improves your cardiovascular health, putting a lot of pressure on the heart at once is not a good idea. Don’t try to run a marathon at the start. Start with 5km runs and then gradually increase your distances.
As already discussed, when you start running long distance your body tends to get injured. But as you become a regular runner, the risk of injuries become negligible. If you are training to run a marathon for the first time, you must consider these risks too. Once you start to run, you’ll slowly begin to feel all the changes in your body and then there will be no going back. The benefits of long distance running are virtually endless.
Protect yourself from all kind of injury. Read Running Injuries Every Runner Should Know
You’ll feel a lot better about yourself. You’ll have a fit, active and healthy body and mind like you have always wanted. An improved physical body also results in higher self-confidence. The benefits long distance running has helped humans live a healthier and happier life for many years.
Don’t maintain a long distance relationship with long distance running and start running from today!
If you are a professional runner or if you have been running for long, then we would love to know about your running experience in the comments below.