You don’t need to be a marathon runner to enjoy the health benefits of running. Even running for 20 minutes three times a week will get your heart pumping and give your muscles a good workout. Moreover, running is almost free, save for the cost of a pair of good running shoes.​

As a moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, running offers many physiological, psychological and cardiovascular health benefits, even for a recreational runner.

To reap the health benefits of running, you must be running fast enough to raise your heart rate, yet stay able to carry out a conversation while running. Gradually increase your running pace to allow your body to adapt.

6 health benefits of running

1. Running improves your heart condition

Running is a great exercise for the heart. Over time, it helps your heart pump more efficiently. Running keeps the arteries elastic so blood flows smoothly.

Cardiovascular exercise also lowers your blood pressure and bad (LDL) cholesterol, but increases good (HDL) cholesterol, thus reducing your risk of heart disease.

2. Running boosts weight loss

Running is excellent to burn fat.As it involves large muscle groups, it is actually one of the best ways to burn calories.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a 73-kg individual can burn some 600 calories per hour when running at 12 km/h. Want to lose weight, stay slim or have a firm butt? Start running.

3. Running strengthens bone structure

Running is a weight-bearing exercise. The pounding on the ground puts stress on the skeletal system which in turn boosts bone mineral density (BMD). Higher BMD means stronger bones. This reduces the risk of osteoporosis, falls and fractures as you age.

4. Running stimulates the brain

Research has shown that running and other aerobic exercises trigger brain cell growth in the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Running also develops the areas of the brain which control movement, coordination and long-term memory.

5. Running enhances emotional and psychological well-being

Running releases natural feel-good hormones called endorphins. Running, especially distance running, gives you the time and space to clear your mind or t​hink through a problem. As a natural stress buster, running can instantly lift up your mood and give you a sense of well-being.

6. Running retards ageing

Running slows down age-related bone and muscle loss as it promotes the release of the human growth hormone. Maximal aerobic capacity (or VO2 max) typically declines 10 per cent per decade, starting from the mid-20s. Running is able to arrest this decline.

Keen to reap the health benefits of running? Check with your doctor first if you are over the age of 50. Start with brisk walking if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle and gradually increase your pace. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

Ref: R14