Why should I run?

Illustration by Sam Island

 

Why should you run?

If you’ve never run a step, you may wonder if you should try. The answer, for so many reasons, is yes.

Running delivers myriad health benefits for body and mind. These are too numerous to cover in full here, but let’s give you a taste: in a study of 55,000 people, US researchers at Iowa State University found running three times a week for an average of just 17 minutes each time reduced the risk of fatal heart attack or stroke by 55 per cent.

Three weekly aerobic exercise sessions also improved glucose control in a University of Ottawa study, while research from the University of Costa Rica found running lowered blood pressure more effectively than cycling.

Studies have also shown running can help you feel calmer, happier and more resistant to stress. Polish researchers found 15-30 minutes of running three times a week reduced anxiety and depression, and improved mood. There is also a a wealth of research that shows in the long term it can combat – or even reverse – cognitive decline.

If running is beginning to sound like a miracle drug, that’s because it is. Those regularly lacing up their trainers have a far lower risk of type 2 diabetes as well as many cancers, including breast, colon and lung. And contrary to the oft-repeated contention, it won’t wreck your knees. Far from it: research from Stanford University, US, found recreational runners actually show less wear and tear on their joints. The weight-bearing nature of running also helps to safeguard bone density, reducing your risk of osteoporosis. Research in the journal Osteoporosis International found older runners had higher bone mineral density than sedentary people and swimmers of the same age.

Then there’s the dramatic effect running has on your waistline. Any increase in physical activity aids weight loss, but running tops the calorie-burning charts. A 66kg woman, for example, will burn twice as many calories by running at a 10-minute-mile pace compared with walking at a 15-minute-mile pace for the same time.

So there you have it. The reasons to run are many and varied. At the same time, we understand that this doesn’t mean you won’t have a long list of (seemingly perfectly good) reasons why the contention that ‘anyone can run’ simply doesn’t apply to you. Let’s take a closer look at these ‘terrible toos’…