With the rise of runners out on the streets and trails, those completing the couch to 5k program, and the growing interest in Park Runs and other supportive running groups, you may be questioning what all the fuss is about and how good it really is for you.
As keen runners ourselves, we were eager to know the answer too. To put a stop to all of our ponderings and ‘what if’s’, we’ve shared our findings to help ease your mind and answer that burning question.
The Positives of Running
Although we know it’s good practice to look at both sides of the story, we’re big fans of focusing on the positives, and running has a lot of them. Here’s 5 huge positives we’ve found of running.
1. Cardiovascular fitness
The number one reason that many take up this physical activity is to improve their cardiovascular fitness, and it’s true that running does improve your heart health.
To name but a few, running strengthens your heart, enhancing your cardiovascular system, and increases your VO2 max.
2. Burns energy
It’s no secret that running is a good form of exercise to burn calories. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, watching your body shape or just looking for an activity to keep your body fat percentage stable, running is one sport that can help you to attain this goal.
3. Strengthens your joints
We know that there’s plenty of talk around the subject of injuries and their prevention, particularly when it comes to running. Did you know that running actually strengthens your joints and bones, provided you’re equipped with well-fitted trainers that have sufficient support for shock-absorption?
It’s important that runners new to the sport increase their mileage and running activity gradually each week as injuries are more likely to occur when you put your body under too much stress too soon. But steadily increasing your runs with a good pair of trainers on foot can hugely improve your joint health.
4. Works your lower body
This one is a given. If you’re looking for a lower body workout that combines cardio, look no further than running – if you haven’t run up a hill then you are missing out! Your legs will not be thanking you the day after a hilly run when the DOMs appear.
Core activation is essential for correct running technique, meaning running also targets your upper body. And if you pump your arms up those hills, you’ll receive a full body workout.
The famous runner’s high is an actual thing. If you haven’t taken up running yet, this reason is as good as any to start moving your legs.
As well as the feel-good exercise-induced endorphins that running produces, running gives many people the headspace needed to meditate and simply think. Whether it’s reflecting on what life’s thrown at you that day, or thinking about what’s for dinner, running is the perfect time to ponder and think.
The Negatives of Running
Whilst we don’t like to dwell on the negatives, it’s worth looking at both sides to the question. After all, we want to know whether running really is that good for us.
This touches on a positive that we’ve mentioned previously. Although running strengthens the body, it’s very easy to injure yourself.
If you’re new to running then it’s a good idea to follow a beginners’ plan, even if your cardio fitness is pretty good from cycling or swimming. Running is a high-impact sport and we need to look after our joints from the early days to reduce the risk of an injury.
Shin splints, pulled hip flexors and painful knees are common injuries that occur amongst runners. If you’re not prepared to put in the additional strengthening work at a gym (or at home), then we’d recommend that you pick another, more low-impact cardio sport.
2. Body imbalances
Whilst this may not be a major reason to not take up running, the sport has been known to cause muscular imbalances. With so much motion going through your legs, it’s likely that your upper body could sustain a lack of strength, particularly if you skip upper body training sessions.
Your core is a very important mechanism involved in the action of running; therefore, it is highly recommended that you train your upper body to benefit your running and prevent muscular imbalance.
Take home message
We found that there are more positives to taking up running than reasons why we shouldn’t take to the roads or trails. However, running isn’t for everyone and we advise you to listen to your body.
As long as you supplement your running with full body training, you’ll reduce your risk of injury and prolong your enjoyment of the sport.
If running is your favourite way to get your body moving, we say go for it, start slowly and increase your mileage little by little.