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4 Positive Side Effects Of Running You Never Knew

by Sportitude
4 May 2018

There’s heaps of reasons to run whether it’s for fun, fitness or to socialise with your furry buddy– but what you may not know is the secret positive side effects of running working on your mind and body as you hit the pavement.

Mood and Mental Health

If you want to be bright and bubbly rather than have a face like grumpy cat, lace up.

High intensity exercise boosts cortisol (stress) levels but in the right amount cortisol is your BFF and has your back. It boosts your energy and stimulates your fight-or-flight response - just like giving your caveman ancestors the ‘super powers’ to wrestle a frisky woolly mammoth.

As you become fitter, your body will adapt to the stress of physical activity and your baseline cortisol levels may decrease. The benefits of this can transfer to everyday situations so you’ll freak out a little less if your furry buddy takes a bite out of your spiffy running shoes.

Exercise also compensates for cortisol levels by releasing endorphins, ‘feel good’ hormones that’ll get your booty shakin’ like Pharrell Williams and increase your sense of well-being – that’s where the euphoria of a ‘runner’s high’ comes in, when the intensity of your run is ‘just right’.  

For even more benefits, trade in the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle for a daily dose of eco-therapy by exercising in a natural environment. It’s proven to provide stress relief, elevate mood, increase creativity and concentration.

Improved Immune System

Regular light to moderate running can have an anti-inflammatory response and overtime, increase the efficiency and quantity of your super-ninja-warrior white blood cells to fight off bacteria and nasties that want to have a party in your body.

Cardio activities like running boosts the rate that blood is pumped throughout your body, allowing your disease-fighting white blood cells to hitchhike a ride and work their magic to detect and ward off illness.

Exercising also increases your body temperature, a factor that can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses taking hold.

Even 20 - 30 minutes of brisk walking a day, a few gym or cycling sessions a week or switching up the elevator for the stairs is beneficial. But if you feel flat like a pancake after exercise, you may be overtraining to the detriment of your immune system.

Quality Shut-Eye

If you want to snooze like a snorlax running may be your golden ticket to catching quality Zzz. But one super sweat session isn’t a magic fix to insomnia woes – studies have shown you may only reap the benefits after a minimum of 8 weeks of consistent exercise.

Timing is critical - squeeze in your workout no later than the early evening (or no less than 3 hours prior to bedtime) to prevent tossing and turning, as physical activity naturally elevates cortisol levels (the ‘stress’ hormone) temporarily, as well as body temperature.

The lowering of body temperature in the hours leading up to head-on-pillow action can act as a natural cue for your body to wind down and achieve quality shut-eye. But if you’re a night owl and it works for you, no probs!

Don’t be afraid to skip the treadmill for a session under the sun – running outdoors can keep your circadian rhythm or ‘body clock’ in sync with the natural day-night cycle, not only improving your sleep quality but boosting your vitamin D.

Cognitive Function

Running isn’t just a workout for your body, it’s a workout for your brain. It gives your brain a jolt of chemicals and in particular, boosts BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein responsible for stimulating the growth and production of brain and nerve cells (neurogenesis) as well as increasing their overall health and survival.

But what does that mean for your brain - the organ that makes you, you?

Running and even moderate intensity exercises such as brisk walking may slow the aging of the brain, helping memories stick like gelato and improve your problem-solving and multi-tasking skills.

If you want to remember where you left your keys, play sudoku like a pro and ward off cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, the first step could be… well… literally taking a step.

A one-off feat of super-human running isn’t going to turn you into the next Einstein (although you could totally rock his hairdo). The key is regular exercise – but trust us, with perseverance you can turn it into your healthy habit. In fact, it’ll feel weird not to run.