The Runner's Body: What Running Does to Change You

There are many reasons people begin running: weight loss. Stress release. Fitness. So the big question is: What does running do to your body? What are the benefits? Is it worth the effort? What is the runner’s body?

Endorphins

Many people talk about the endorphins that are released while running. It is a basic scientific fact that when you run your body will release a chemical called endorphins.

First, these endorphins will interact with your brain to inhibit pain. Second, endorphins will trigger a feel-good sensation throughout the body that creates the runners high – people refer to it as post-workout.

Technically, endorphins are painkillers that the body releases in order to inhibit pain and/or discomfort. This goes all the way back to prehistoric times when a man had to run hard and fast in order to survive while hunting prey. This was necessary for survival.

Today, humans can chase those endorphins by skirting the truly horrible workouts but also pushing beyond easy ones. There is a delicate balance necessary to get that real rush that comes from pushing oneself to the point of euphoria.

Cardiovascular Health

Did you know that resting heart rate is lowered by regular running? That you can increase your body’s maximum oxygen intake by running?

Science has proven that running as little as thirty minutes, three days a week can lower your resting heart rate by up to ten beats a minute. If you do the math that can equal close to five million less heartbeats a year.

According to Harvard Health, running is like an insurance policy for your heart. Even breaking your workout into three, ten-minute sessions is seen as a way to improve cardiovascular health. And running is touted as an efficient way to achieve this end goal.

Calorie Burning

Running is an efficient burner of calories. For people hoping to achieve weight loss, this makes running a great option for exercise. However, you cannot outrun your plate. What does this mean? That for most people, no workout will compensate for overall terrible eating habits.

Running is still as efficient as ever for people trying to make maximum use of the time they have. A thirty-minute run is far more productive than the same amount of time on a bicycle or elliptical, for most athletes.

Does running always lead to weight loss? Absolutely not. The truth of it is that runners come in all shapes and sizes.

So I Shouldn’t Expect to Lose Weight By Running?

Approximately 3,500 calories equal one pound. Okay let’s do some math here. The average 135-pound runner burns approximately 100 calories a mile. Using conventional math that means that a runner who travels about 3-4 miles will burn roughly 300-400 calories in one workout.

oreo cookies calories
Source: oreo.com

Two Oreo cookies are about 100 calories. Yes, you read that correctly. Running 3-4 miles burns about 6-8 cookies for a runner of average build. That does not mean that running isn’t a great compliment to a healthy diet. It absolutely is.

But if a person starts a running plan without making any other changes, weight loss will probably not result. Again: you can’t outrun what you put on your plate.

If you are hoping for weight loss, be cognizant of what you are putting into your body. It is fairly common for a runner to overestimate how many calories they have “earned” by running or working out. This can actually lead to weight gain which, for some people, is counterproductive.

Stress Reliever

Believe it or not, running can be a blissful way for many people to relieve stress. This does make sense, considering the endorphins that running releases.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, even thirty minutes on a treadmill is statistically proven to improve an individual’s mood dramatically.

find your happy pace
Source: trademarkia.com

No, it’s not a magic bullet to improve someone’s mood. No, it can’t necessarily provide life-altering changes for someone struggling with depression or mental health issues.

However, it can relieve stress. It also can provide supplemental support for someone struggling with some of these issues.

Researchers also think that running and other types of aerobic exercise will increase both serotonin and norepinephrine which not only relieve stress but also improve cognitive function.

Why? Because any type of movement seems to improve a person’s overall physical and mental health.

 

Sleep

Running is proven to help people sleep better. This is not to imply that you can run right before bed and expect a good night’s sleep.

sleep and running
Source: sleepdr.com

Also, many people have stressful jobs and lives, and sleep is elusive. However, statistically, regular exercise (including running), helps people to find restful evenings.

What About My Butt? Thighs? Calves?

It is true that running can help you to get a more toned and shapely body. Looking to trim down your body? Hoping for killer legs? Running can help get those things.

Does it always? NO. And remember, you can’t run while continuing to eat or drink whatever you want and expect magical results. It typically does not work that way.

Won’t My Knees Give Out?

It’s every runner’s most common complaint: listening to people predict that they will get bad knees. Newsflash: most runners’ knees are just fine.

Actually, running is known to help women with the prevention of osteoporosis. Also, running is proven to strengthen, not weaken, joints.

Sometimes Running Has Unexpected Consequences

If you are a female runner, you may experience weight loss in only one place, and not one you are hoping for: your breasts. Because breasts are all fatty tissue, often weight loss occurs first there. Be prepared to drop a bra size if you start running.

Both men and women may have some chafing issues with to contend. Of course, there are products such as Body Glide and other lubricants to help deal with these things. But a runner needs to know to be prepared for body problems such as chafe.

Strengthening Body, Mind and Soul

When contemplating the physical benefits of running, typically people think of running as an excellent way to lose weight and chisel the body into an ideal shape. There are more realistic expectations a new runner should have when adding running to a workout regime.

Running many not make you look 21 again. However, it is guaranteed to strengthen your body, mind and soul. It will build muscle.

Running will help you achieve things you had not previously thought possible. It will improve your cardiovascular and often mental health. It is an excellent stress reliever that often aides in sleep.

Running may not change your body as you anticipated, but it is guaranteed to change your life!

Sources:
Live Longer article 
Harvard Health 

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