First, a disclaimer: We love the gym. We love strength training with free weights and workout machines. And there's tons of reasons you should do it whether you're looking to build muscle, shed fat and calories, or simply amp up your overall health. But, there's a slew of benefits specific to running that together make a pretty strong case for any guy to consider becoming a runner.
From the aesthetic benefits to the mental perks, there's a reason why 19 million people finished races in the US last year. While we're not saying you should quit the gym (please don't), we are saying you should consider taking up running, too. Here's 10 reasons why.
1. Running can help you live longer
Runners live longer than those who don’t. In one Archives of Internal Medicine study, researchers followed about 1,000 adults (ages 50 and older) for 21 years. At the end of the study, 85 percent of the runners were still kicking it, while only 66 percent of the non-runners were alive. Yikes.
2. Running fights off beer bellies
As you age, pounds just have a way of gluing themselves to your stomach. But in one Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study of more than 100,000 runners, those who ran 35 or more miles per week gained less weight in their bellies throughout their mid-life years than those who ran less than nine.
3. Running can help score you Vitamin D
The human body gets most of its vitamin D from sun exposure, but since people spend all of their time indoors, well, you know how it goes. That explains why 41.6 percent of Americans are deficient in the vitamin, according to research published in Nutrition Research. Taking your run outside can help boost your levels to ward off depression, prevent type 2 diabetes, and strengthen your bones.
4. Running burns crazy calories
An average one-hour weight-training workout at the gym burns about 300 calories. The typical hour-long run burns about twice that. Meanwhile, in one study from the Medical College of Wisconsin and the VA Medical Center, researchers found that the treadmill (used at a “hard” level) burned an average of 705 to 865 calories in an hour. The stair-climber, rower, and stationary bike all burned far fewer cals.
5. Running turns you into the Energizer bunny
“Running is such a great cardiovascular workout that it makes it so that you don’t get tired as easily from any given workload,” Fitzgerald says. “For example, if I’m helping a friend move, I can carry boxes all day long and it’s not a big deal.”
6. Running strengthens your bones
Unlike every other aerobic workout you can crank out in the gym, running is high impact, meaning it loads and remakes your bones along with your muscles. “Swimming, cycling, and working on the elliptical don’t train your bones,” says Jason Fitzgerald, a USA Track & Field-certified coach and the founder of Strength Running. “If those are the only things you do, you’re at risk for weak bones and osteoporosis.”
7. Running fights off the common cold
“If you’re starting to feel sick, an easy 30-minute run can stimulate the immune system to help fight off a cold before it has a chance to take hold,” Fitzgerald says. In one British Journal of Sports Medicine Study, people who performed aerobic activity at least five days a week suffered from upper respiratory tract infections 43 percent less often than those who got in less aerobic activity. Plus, when runners did catch colds, their symptoms were much less severe.
8. It strengthens your knees
No, running doesn’t wreck your knees. It does the exact opposite. Research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that running (even marathoning!) decreases the risk of knee osteoarthritis. That may be because running increases the flow of nutrients to the cartilage in your knee while also strengthening the ligaments around the joint.
9. Running can make over your heart
“First and foremost, running is an aerobic sport,” Fitzgerald says. By training your body’s aerobic (oxygen-sucking) metabolism, it strengthens your heart while lowering your resting heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol. And guess what? Aerobic exercise is, by far, the most time-efficient form of exercise for improving your heart health, according to research published in The American Journal of Cardiology.
10. It keeps your eyes healthy
When most guys think about exercise benefits, they probably don’t think about their vision. But 2013 research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that people who run an average of five miles or more a day have a 41 percent lower risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of age-related vision loss and blindness. While the exact reason is yet to be known, it could have to do with the fact that running reduces the likelihood of developing high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, both of which can contribute to cataracts.
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