COSI Blog
22
April
2014

Get Out and Run!

Spring is here and with it comes (mostly) nice weather and more and more people will begin a running program as the days get warmer. After a long winter it feels nice to be outside and a great way to enjoy the outdoors is by running.  Running is a fun activity that also happens to be free. While running around your neighborhood, you are more likely to see your neighbors and might even make a few new friends. If you have any canine companions, they might even like to go for a run with you. In keeping with the season, here are a few more of the reasons to get out and run, as well as some advice for beginning a running regimen.

The benefits of running are well worth the effort and keeping them in mind will help you stick to your plan. According to the American Heart Association, running can improve cardiovascular health in several ways like lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This is because the heart is a muscle like any other in your body and exercise increases its efficiency. Over time your heart will not have to work as hard to pump the same volume of blood to your tissues. These improvements can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, which are the number 1 and 4 causes of death in the United States respectively.

Running or other strenuous physical activity can also help prevent or manage diabetes. Insulin is the signaling molecule your body uses to instruct its cells to absorb and use glucose molecules. When you engage in regular exercise, over time the cells of your body will begin to produce more insulin receptors on their outside surfaces. This makes them more sensitive to insulin and allows them to more efficiently use glucose. This in turn will greatly reduce an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  In the short term, exercise like running will cause your cells to take up large amounts of glucose, lowering your blood sugar level.

In addition to the benefits to your body, running also benefits your mind as well. The previously mentioned diseases are all strong risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Running also increases blood flow and oxygen consumption in the brain, contributing to health. Lastly, the alertness that goes along with planning a route and paying attention to traffic patterns can further improve cognitive function.

Those who are considering starting to run should know that before beginning any kind of exercise regimen you should consult with your physician first. They may give you specific instructions or suggest alternate activities to running, like walking or swimming. Any physical activity is better than none and will carry some of the benefits mentioned previously.  Whether you are a first time runner or are simply beginning again after a winter of inactivity, it is a good idea to start off slowly. Many people set out to start running and immediately sign themselves up for a long race. This is setting oneself up for failure. If you push yourself too hard too fast you may become injured and unable to exercise until you recover which will hinder your motivation.

It is much better to set more manageable goals like going out for a jog for a half hour three times a week. If you find that you need to walk, do so until you can begin jogging again. Then you can work on slowly decreasing the amount of time you are spending walking. After a time, then you can begin worrying about how far you are running or increasing your pace. Setting and reaching these goals will boost your confidence and keep things interesting. If you do wish to sign up for a race, this can be good motivation as long as you keep a realistic perspective. Perhaps sign up for a walk/run with a group of friends. This way, if you need to walk for a time, you will not be alone and you will be less likely to quit altogether. When you have a few of these under your belt, and if your doctor approves, then you might consider going for a 5k. With these tips in mind, you will be on the road to good health in no time but it all starts with one step out the door. Get out there and run!

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About the Author

Photo of Joe Wood.

Joe Wood

Joe Wood joined the COSI team in 2012 and has been Manager of Health and Medicine Programs since February 2014. He develops content and programs related to COSI's Health and Medicine area of focus. His interests include paleontology, cooking, gardening, and homebrewing.

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