Long-distance running is a rad sport that has beaucoup benefits for your body and mind. But there are some things to keep in mind before you hit the road. Here’s a deep dive into the pros and cons of distance running. Bonus: We also have some top-notch tips to keep your runs fun, safe, and effective.

What are the benefits of distance running?

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Ready to go the distance? Here are six reasons why distance running is good for you.

1. Get in shape

Running is a stellar way to shed fat. A 154-pound person can burn about 295 calories during a 30 minute jog at 5 miles per hour, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Keep in mind, the exact number of calories you burn can depend on:

  • weather conditions like wind resistance and hella hot temperatures
  • your body composition, sex, and weight
  • terrain and incline
  • speed

Running can also help strengthen your bod. It activates a full range of lower body muscles like the calves, quads, hamstrings, and butt. You can also notice results in your back and core. Score!

2. Good for memory

A regular running regimen might help jog your memory. Research shows aerobic exercise can enhance cognitive function and reduce your risk of age-related brain tissue loss. In a 2018 study of 55 older adults with subjective memory impairments, folks were asked to do a 90-minute group aerobics class twice a week. After 4 weeks, participants had improved attention, memory, and reasoning abilities.

3. Better sleep quality

A single 30-minute exercise sesh can help you fall asleep faster, according to the Sleep Foundation. Aerobic exercises might also help you sleep longer and stay asleep throughout the night. Suck it, insomnia!

PSA: The Sleep Foundation notes that moderate-intensity cardio exercises (e.g. walking) has been proven to relieve insomnia. So the jury’s still out if vigorous running can have the same effects.

4. Might help bone health

Running is a weight-bearing exercise which means it might increase bone density in healthy adults and kids 🦴. But the jury’s still out on this one. According to recent research, long-distance running is linked with pelvic and femoral neck injuries. So it’s def a good idea to talk with your doc before starting a running regimen. This is extra important if you have a degenerative joint or bone disease like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.

5. Benefits mental health

The whole “runner’s high” thing might be legit. Research shows running can have a positive impact on your mental health. It can pump up on the volume on happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. That means it can help reduce stress and might reduce symptoms of depression. It can also help increase confidence and feelings of self-worth 🤗.

6. Improve cardiovascular health

Running is a dope way to increase cardiovascular insurance. It helps you maintain an increased heart rate and breathing over an extended amount of time. This can improve heart and lung function while improving your overall stamina.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests at least 30 minutes of cardio 5 times a week for healthy adults. A 5- to 10-minute run a day is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a 2015 study. But keep in mind, we don’t know if running longer distances can result in better benefits.

Generally, pros of running outweigh the cons. But still, there are some things you should watch out for if you run on the reg. The legs, knees, and feet are the most common injury zones for runners, according to a 2015 systematic review. Here’s a rundown of some common issues:

  • Shin splints. Shin splints are a major pain in the leg. They can pop up when the tendons, bone tissues, and muscles of the shinbone are overworked.
  • Ankle sprains. An ankle sprain is when you tear or overstretch the ligaments that hold your ankle bones together. Symptoms can range from minor discomfort to severe swelling and pain.
  • Plantar fasciitis. Heel pain is hell. Plantar fasciitis happens when the band of tissue that supports your foot’s arch becomes irritated.
  • Stress fractures. These fractures might be small, but the pain can be big. They’re usually caused by repetitive stress or overuse.
  • Achilles tendinitis. Ah, the famous Achilles tendon. When it gets overworked it can cause pain that runs up the back of your leg down to the heel.
  • IT band syndrome. Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome) occurs when the ligaments that extend from the pelvic bone to the shinbone get super tight and rub against the thighbone. Ouch.
  • Pulled hamstrings. Hamstring tendons can develop tiny tears if overworked or misused. This can cause pain and inflammation that can radiate out to the knee.
  • Runner’s knee (patellofemoral syndrome). Runner’s knee is a general term to describe several runner-related knee injuries. This includes patellofemoral malalignment, chondromalacia patella, or anterior knee pain syndrome.

We’d all love to run like we did in middle school ( or like Phoebe Buffay). But TBH, it’s def not the best for your bod. These safety tips can help keep your runs safe and effective.

  • Easy does it. Don’t go from 0 to 100 overnight. Upping your mileage too quickly can increase your chance of an injury.
  • Don’t skip the warmup and cooldown. They help you ease in and out of each sweat sesh.
  • Proper form is key. Keep your running technique on fleek. It helps increase performance and reduces your risk of an ouchie.
  • New shoes. Get your running swag on with some sweet sneaks. A running specialty store can help you find a customized fit that’s perfect for your top terrain type.
  • Dress up. Dress warm in the winter and wear UV protective clothing in the sun. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
  • Avoid rough terrain. Off-road runs can be fun AF. But uneven surfaces can put extra stress on your joints and ligaments. So be sure to give it a rest after trail treks.
  • Don’t ditch the dumbbells. Even if running is your BFF, it’s important to keep your workouts diverse. Studies show resistance training can improve running performance and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Take a break. You don’t have to run every single day. Your body needs time to recover from each workout, especially longer runs. You can also give your joints a break with low impact activities like swimming, walking, or gentle yoga.

Distance running has a lot of proven perks. It’s a great way to get in shape and can increase your overall well-being. Just remember, even when you want to go the distance you shouldn’t push past your limits. Always give yourself time to recover after each workout. You should also listen to your body and take note of any injuries. Let your doc know if pain persists for more than a couple days.