Battling a perpetual pudge
When I was a teenager I battled a perpetual pudge. I wasn’t fat, but something didn’t feel right. This made me uncomfortable in my own skin, and because my girlfriends were stick-thin without watching what they ate, or engaging in any kind of fitness regimen, I felt deeply alone in my problem. Although my yet to be discovered gluten allergy was contributing to some of my extra weight and lethargic constitution, had I known that running might literally melt away my chubby knees I would have worked through the sluggishness.
Awakening To Exercise
It wasn’t until my mid-20’s that I awoke to exercise. My first foray into fitness began with yoga, which I loved and have continued to practice ever since, but I didn’t notice any significant shift in the shape of my body until I began to run a year later. I started out on a treadmill and soon after moved to running outdoors, which produced even greater results and felt so good that I became naturally hooked.
For the first time in my life, my body began to change
From that point onward, these are the results that I’ve produced over and over again: as long as I run, I stay fit. My knees and entire legs slim down, my arms become slender and even my abs benefit.
It has been over 15 years since I began to run regularly, or semi-regularly, for usually not much longer than 30 minutes, on average 3 times per week. This is no huge time investment. Including stretching, my running workouts take just under an hour in total, and usually necessitate no travel time to the gym! Except during harsh winters – but I’m in California now, so thankfully bone chill is a thing of the past.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about running and have worked through a number of obstacles. I continue to be amazed at how many benefits can be gained from this singular, basic, completely free, form of exercise. In fact, there are so many benefits to running that it was a tough job whittling it down to just 5. These are a solid start to get you motivated, and once you get on the track, trail or road, I’m certain that you too will begin to dive deep as your health, mind and body improve.
Read on for a few highlighted health benefits and check back next week for tips on how to create an effective, safe and lasting running regimen. Don’t skip the pros! They’ll keep you motivated.
Here’s to the longevity of your practice!
5 Reasons To Stay On Track
1. STAY TRIM
I’ve seen it for myself, but if you have any doubt, Duke University published a study December 15, 2012, in the Journal of Applied Physiology, proving aerobic exercise to be the single most effective mode of exercise for reducing fat mass. This is not to say that there aren’t other very important benefits to routines that include yoga, resistance training, etc, but on this one point, cardio/ aerobic workouts are the most effective for staying trim. What’s more aerobic exercise produces hormones that reduce your appetite!
2. STAY HAPPY + SHARP
When I run I feel more clear-headed and optimistic. I feel like difficult things are possible to surmount. I get flooded with inspiration and ideas. This is no surprise, because aerobic exercise bathes your brain with blood, delivering much needed oxygen and glucose to the cells. It also triggers the release of several mind and mood boosting chemicals as well as elevates the neurotransmitters necessary for their reuptake. Running will supply you with a healthy dose of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.
Endorphins help to reduce stress, decrease appetite and produce a euphoric feeling. Seratonin, is the well-known hormone responsible for keeping us feeling happy, while dopamine helps with focus and comprehension. Norepinephrine, drives motivation, attention and even arousal.
Finally these all mix with BDNF, which is a key factor in new cell production, mood regulation, learning and long-term memory. In part this is because BDNF plays a role in modulating neurotransmitter release, and with increased levels it can help make the most out of all those mood-modifying hormones.
Studies have shown that your brain will physically become bigger with regular exercise (3x week or more). In particular the hippocampus, responsible for memory and learning, dramatically increased in size during a 6 month trail that tracked people who exercised three times per week for an hour at a time.
3. STAY REGULAR
This one is short and sweet. Running stimulates peristalsis, the movement of the bowl necessary for healthy elimination. That’s right, running may help to keep you regular! Feeling backed-up? Take a jog around the block.
4. STAY STRONG
Running improves bone density in a couple of ways. Together, the force of impact (when running at least a 10 minute mile or faster) and the friction of your muscles rubbing against and pulling on your bones stimulate bone growth. Bone growth makes for healthy, firm bones with good density.
The important thing is to start early. You need to build the mass while you have the strength to run that 10 minute mile, and the extended period of time to build your bones before they become brittle.
5. STAY HEALTHY
The same endorphins that reduce stress and pain, also improve your immune response, while serotonin helps to reduce the risk of heart disease. During an endurance workout like running your lungs have to work extra hard to supply your whole body with the needed oxygen. Over time your lungs become more efficient and allow you to breathe easier at rest, as well at play.
Your heart too will have to pump more vigorously at a faster rate as the demand for blood is amped up during your run. This is called cardiac output. With a steady running routine your heart will become stronger and more efficient. So when you’re sitting at your desk all day, and your heart is at rest beating at a slow pace, it’s still able to pump sufficient amounts of blood to all your vital organs and muscles.
Cardio leads to cleaner arteries! Because of the heavy flow of blood and oxygen coursing through your vascular system, this effectively reduces fatty deposits in the veins and arteries. Plus you will develop a greater number of blood vessels and increased size of existing ones, both of which contribute to improved circulation and blood pressure.
Before I started running, for many years I experienced nearly nightly, excruciating, muscle spasms due to a lack of blood flow to the muscles, along with a host of other circulation issues. All these symptoms completely vanished with a regular running routine.