Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest Post: Running For Your Life

Running For Your Life

By Leslie Vandever

Why run?

“It’s not only the feeling we get while running—forgetting about worries, and relieving tension, but it is also the feeling we get after a good run. The calm and focus, as if the world slows down and we have more time to think. Problems become opportunities and life feels better, even food tastes better.”

--Chris B., Zen to Fitness blog

There are all kinds of reasons to run, just as there are all kinds of runners. Reveling in the endorphin release—the “runner’s high”—is just one of them. And really, who wouldn’t like to have Chris B.’s “calm and focus, as if the world slows down?” Who doesn’t want “problems [to] become opportunity?”

There are real, tangible benefits to being a runner, whether you do it for its Zen, because it exercises your competitive streak, or because you simply love to run. So, let’s talk about what those benefits are.

First, running burns calories. Practiced regularly, it can help you lose weight—and then keep it under control so you stay sleek and svelte. Running jacks up the body’s metabolism so it burns through what you eat instead of saving it as fat for a “rainy day” that never comes. Then it gets you into shape, strengthening and toning every muscle you have below the waist.

The rest of them get a fair workout, too.

Then there’s the self-discipline. Let’s be honest. It’s hard to get up at the crack of dawn so you can put five miles in before work, especially when it’s dark, cold, and sleeting out there. But having the self-discipline to lace up and do it anyway can give you a big boost. It’ll spill into the rest of your day, increasing your overall self-confidence and sense of well-being.

When you’re a runner, you can basically thumb your nose at the threat of “metabolic syndrome,” that triad of dangerous conditions. You won’t need to worry about becoming overweight or obese, or about developing type 2 diabetes. And your cardiovascular health will be terrific. Running gets the blood pumping through your veins, strengthening them and making them more flexible. And, just as it does with the muscles in your legs, running strengthens and tones your heart. It’s a muscle, too, and it gets a real workout every time you trot out the door.

Speaking of cardiovascular health: running not only lowers your blood pressure, it also lowers your cholesterol levels, making sure that it doesn’t build up and clog your arteries. When you add eating a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet, you can’t help but impress your doctor during your next annual check-up.

When you run, you work your lungs to capacity. Your entire body—from the tips of your toes to the tiniest of your brain cells—get fully oxygenated. That’s good for your respiratory health. Is it any wonder that some of your most creative ideas and solutions to problems come to you while you’re out on a run?

Running is a high-impact activity. Each time a foot hits the ground, it signals the body to strengthen and increase the density of your bones. It reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis, the thin, brittle bone condition that often strikes first in late middle age.

Finally, running is good for your mental health. It’s not just the runner’s high mentioned above. When you’re concentrating mainly on your breathing, your cares and worries shrink down to their proper proportion in your life. Running is a terrific physical outlet for everyday stress, pressure, and tension.

It might add years to your life.

For more information about the beneficial effects of exercise on your health, click here.

Leslie Vandever—known as "Wren" to the readers of RheumaBlog, her personal blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis—is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.

·      Health Benefits of Running. (n.d.) Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development (SEED). Retrieved on March 11, 2014 from
·      Physical Activity. (2011, Feb.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on March 12, 2014 from
·      Running and Walking Both Good for Your Heart. (2013, Apr. 5) PubMed Health. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on March 12, 2014 from

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