Run Run Run! Run for Your Health

By  , Expert Content
Jan 17, 2013
Quick Bites

  • Running improves cardiovascular and respiratory fitness.
  • It is a high energy activity which burns a lot of calories.
  • Running strengthens and builds the muscles and bones.
  • Regular running slows down the process of ageing of body parts.

Running is awesome. Period.

Running can be defined as moving steadily by springing steps so that both feet go off the ground momentarily. It can be done outdoors on the road, in a park or an unpaved trail as well as indoors on a treadmill.

Treadmill running is an alternative to running outside when the weather is bad or when you get bored and want a change from your outdoor running routine. Most treadmills have various running programs and options to increase or decrease the pace, resistance and incline.

Here are a dozen health reasons for running that will get even the most reluctant runner out on the road; you won't need any more convincing.


Benefits of Running

Running is a high intensity cardiovascular workout with several physical and psychological health and fitness benefits. It is most accessible of aerobic exercises, easy to learn and does not require any expensive equipment except for a good pair of running shoes, comfortable clothing, water bottle and a hand towel.

1.    Running improves cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) and respiratory (lungs) fitness. It increases the level of HDL (High Density Lipoprotein), which is heart friendly cholesterol. It also maintains an optimum blood pressure, maintains elasticity of arteries which minimizes the risk of blood clots and heart attack and thus reduces the risk of several heart and lung diseases and certain cancers.

running for health


2.    It is a high energy activity which requires a lot of calories. Thus people who are looking forward to lose excess weight and body fat can go ahead with running. The number of calories burned while running depends upon the runner’s body weight, intensity of the run and efficiency of the runner.


3.    It strengthens the immune system by increasing the concentration of WBC (white blood cells which fight diseases) in the blood.


4.    Running is a weight bearing activity (you bear your own body weight while running) hence it strengthens and builds the muscles and bones. This reduces the risk of osteoporosis.


5.    Regular running slows down the process of ageing by conditioning the body systems. It aids in building and strengthening the bones and muscles which tend to weaken as we age.


6.    Trail running (running on unpaved trails) requires a great deal of balance and coordination. The uneven surface with rocks, weeds, tree roots and so on, makes trail runners learn to balance and coordinate by gaining control over their bodies to prevent tripping or stumbling. Even running on flat paved surface with the body upright and landing on one foot at a time requires balance and coordination.


7.    Many people run outdoors to socialize. They make good friends too apart from gaining health and fitness benefits.

running for health


8.    Running is an exercise which also has great psychological benefits. While running, hormones called endorphins are released in the body, which give a great sense of feel-good factor. The runner feels happy and less stressed. As running is a very challenging activity, it results in a sense of accomplishment and pride on completing every single running session. 

Before you start a running plan you should bear in mind certain cautions:

1.    Do not run outdoors in a hot and humid environment as the weather will deplete off your energy and efficiency. Running in hot weather is also dangerous as it leads to dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which can be fatal. The best time to run is early mornings and late evenings.

2.    Also, do not run outdoors if the weather is too cold as it may lead to hypothermia in which the core body temperature drops below normal and is dangerous. Frostbite is another potential problem of running in cold weather. This is another dangerous condition in which the skin colour becomes red and then while and numb.


3.    Avoid running on a hard surface such as cemented roads and grounds. Grass is a better option for outdoors. Regular high intensity and high impact activities such as running and jogging on a hard surface lead to musculoskeletal (muscle and bone) injuries.


4.    Hydration is very important before, during and after running. You lose a lot of water and important body salts in the form of sweat and hence it is very important to replenish them. Keep sipping water or a sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes during running. Consume 400 to 500 ml of water at least an hour before exercise to allow for excretion before exercise. Consume 450 to 600 ml of water after exercise to replace the lost water weight. Individuals will vary in terms of how much water drinking they are comfortable with.


5.    It is very important to dress up appropriately for any activity. Wear running shoes and comfortable cotton clothes for your running activity. Do not wear synthetic materials.

running for health

6.    A sufficient and efficient warm up preceding a running routine is very crucial. This should also include stretching. A 10 minute warm up before any physical activity reduces the risk of injuries and promises an efficient workout. Similarly, a cool down following the main workout helps in recovering from physical stress and brings your body back to the pre-exercise state.


7.    Always carry your identifications with yourself and let someone be aware of where do you plan to run. Do not run alone in the dark and if a person or location makes you uncomfortable change your route.


8.    When running on a treadmill, start slowly and walk for 5 minutes before increasing your pace and similarly slow down the pace after you are through with your run. Never jump off the treadmill without letting the treadmill belt stop completely.


9.    Never attempt to run when you are injured or when you have a flu or fever.

Basic toolkit for Running

  • A great pair of running shoes and socks.
  • A waist-pack water bottle or sports drink.
  • Hand towel.
  • Loose fitted and comfortable clothing that allows the skin to breathe.
  • Women must wear a sports bra.
  • Band-aids.


Diet for Running


As with any other exercise plan, a balanced diet is a must, your running activity should also be complimented with a nutritious eating plan. Food gives us energy which is used as fuel when we run. The quality of your run will depend upon your diet plan. Hence, a balance of the right amount of carbohydrates (60%), proteins (15%), fats (25%), vitamins and minerals should be derived from a variety of healthful food items. You should ideally eat small portion meals 5-6 times a day with a gap of 2-3 hours in between each meal. This will keep you high in energy throughout the day.


Excellent sources of carbohydrates:

  •     Whole grains.
  •     Whole grain cereals and breads.
  •     Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables (Green and Yellow)
  •     Brown rice.
  •     Whole wheat pasta.


Excellent sources of proteins:

  •     Low fat dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, curd, buttermilk.
  •     Soymilk and Tofu (Soy paneer).
  •     Eggs.
  •     Fish (Tuna, Salmon), Lean Meats and chicken.
  •     Nuts (Almonds and Walnuts) in moderation
  •     Beans.


Excellent sources of Good fats (Omega 3 fatty acids – essential fatty acids required by the body):

  •     Fish / fish oil.
  •     Nuts
  •     Olive oil.
  •     Flaxseed / flaxseed oil.


All these food items will give you all the required vitamins and minerals. However, there are certain food rules to follow before a run. Avoid foods such as milk, cheese and ice cream just before a run as they contain lactose, a milk sugar, which many people are unable to digest easily. This may create discomfort while running and lead to stomach cramps. Avoid beans and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as they have the tendency to produce gas which will again be uncomfortable for the activity.

Do not eat hard to digest proteins and fats just before running as they may take longer to get absorbed into your system and can interrupt into your running. Most of the blood supply will shift to the gastrointestinal tract for digestion rather than to the working muscles supporting running. Watch your meal timings. There should be a gap of three hours between a big meal and running.

Eat dinner two hours before going to bed always in case you plan to run early morning and very important, always try to clear your system before a run or any physical activity. What can be eaten before the activity is entirely a process of experimentation for you. Running or any exercise is fueled primarily by carbohydrates. If you plan to go for a long run (more than an hour), you will have to device a small snack for yourself depending upon what suits your stomach best.

As for how many calories a runner should consume depends upon the goal, activity level and lifestyle of an individual. In general, women should consume in between 1,200 to 1,500 kcal a day and men should consume 1,800 to 2,000 kcal a day.


Image Courtesy: Getty Images


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