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For some people, jogging is a meditative exercise. For others, it’s a nightmare made real. But no matter where you fall on the “I love running” versus “I hate running” spectrum, jogging is really, really good for your health.
Among the benefits of jogging: stress reduction, better sleep, a stronger immune system, and maybe even a longer life — and that’s just to name a few!
If you need an extra push to put on your kicks and hit the pavement, here are some incredible reasons to jog.
It might sound like a trivial technicality, but running and jogging aren’t identical — the difference is in the pace. If you’re going 6 miles per hour or slower, you’re jogging. Go faster than 6 miles per hour and you’re on a run.
To put that in perspective, 6 miles per hour is roughly a 10-minute mile pace. In an age where speed is often the name of the game, it might surprise you to know there are legit health perks to taking things slow.
It’s good for mental health
Depression and anxiety are growing health concerns in the United States. About 7 percent of adults will likely experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Since it’s an election year, that number might go up to 259 percent (this isn’t based on science, just on the looks of our Facebook feeds).
Jogging certainly isn’t a cure for depression or anxiety, but there’s growing evidence that it helps ease the symptoms. A 2004 review of studies about exercise and depression found that working out lifted people’s moods.
In a 1999 study mentioned in the review, a 16-week walking or jogging regimen (30 minutes, three times a week) was as effective at reducing depression symptoms as taking medication for the same length of time. (Of course, we don’t recommend you ditch therapy or toss your Lexapro prescription just because you put on your running shoes.)
And you don’t have to be a marathoner or a super-fast sprinter to see results from jogging. A small 1998 study found that jogging improved participants’ moods regardless of whether they exercised at low, moderate, or high intensity.
It reduces stress
If you’ve never felt stressed, we’d love to pull a “Freaky Friday” and swap bodies with you. But if you’re one of the 40 million adults who have an anxiety disorder, jogging could help reduce your stress level.
In a 2018 review of studies, researchers concluded that aerobic exercise is helpful for people who experience increased anxiety. Not too shabby!
It helps you sleep better
The benefits of a jog don’t end after your cooldown stretch. They can improve your entire day… and night!
A 2017 review noted that scientists aren’t 100 percent sure why exercise and sleep are connected, but they definitely are. Overall, study participants who performed cardiovascular exercise like jogging had improved sleep.
Moderate aerobic exercise can also help with chronic insomnia, according to a 2012 review of studies. Fewer hours lying awake, tossing and turning? Sign us up!
It strengthens your immune system
Your body’s ability to fight off disease is super important, so anything you can do to bolster it is probably a good idea.
A 2018 review found that people who exercised regularly were less likely to get bacterial and viral infections. It didn’t address jogging specifically but found that any physical activity can provide an immunity boost.
It decreases insulin resistance
If you’re insulin-resistant, it means your body doesn’t respond to insulin properly. That can lead to high blood sugar and possibly diabetes. In other words, insulin resistance = bad.
Thankfully, regular jogging has been shown to decrease insulin resistance. A 2015 review found that exercise decreased insulin resistance, overall cholesterol, and risk of heart disease in most patients.
If you’re at risk for diabetes, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to find out whether you could benefit from changing your diet in addition to getting your jog on. Even if you don’t have any blood sugar issues, jogging could help improve your overall blood work results.
It increases lifespan
“I’m gonna live forever” is not how everyone feels after a long jog. But truly, jogging may help you live longer.
In a 2017 review that included data from more than 55,000 people, researchers found that jogging could reduce the risk of dying from heart attack or stroke by 45 percent. Plus, it could reduce the chance of dying from any cause by 30 percent.
Obviously, this doesn’t factor in car crashes or freak accidents involving falling air conditioners. But a 30 percent decreased risk of death by disease is pretty incredible!
It makes your wallet happy
OK, this isn’t a health benefit, per se. But if you’re on a budget, not worrying about paying gym fees will definitely lead to less stress. Jogging is cheap! Technically, you don’t need anything to jog except a pair of sneakers, which you probably already own.
Since you can jog almost any time and any place, it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule. And you never have to deal with weird gym bros.
How often you jog depends on your individual needs. According to a 2014 study, a light jog of 5 to 10 minutes a day can greatly improve your health.
There are limits to the benefits, though: One review found that longevity stopped increasing if you jogged for more than 4.5 hours a week. (That doesn’t mean you can’t run for 5 or more hours, though.) A 2015 study found that jogging two or three times a week at low intensity was the best way to increase longevity.
A 2013 study recommends jogging three times a week if you’re just starting out. If you want to exercise more, try another form of exercise, like swimming or cycling, 2 days of the week. This gives your body time to recover (and keeps you from getting bored!).
What’s most important, though, is listening to your body. If you want to jog more, jog more! If you feel pain, stop! You don’t want to jog through pain. It could cause injury or delay recovery, and — in scientific terms — it sucks bad.
Many people like to get their workouts out of the way first thing in the morning so they can come home after work and crash.
Fortunately, a 2019 study found that jogging in the morning corresponded best with our circadian rhythms. Another benefit of morning jogs is that aerobic exercise in the a.m. may affect your blood pressure in a way that improves your sleep quality.
But the best time to jog is whenever you will actually jog. If you can only do it in the evenings, great. Love jogging at lunch? Fantastic! Can’t get enough of that morning jog? Hooray for you! Getting active regularly is what’s most important, so pick a time that works best for you.
Jogging may seem super straightforward, but here are a few tips to help you hit the pavement like a pro and reduce your risk of injury:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Exercise can lead to dehydration, and the symptoms can be severe. The amount of water you’ll need depends on how much you sweat. Brigham and Women’s Hospital recommends drinking 16 ounces before a run, 16 ounces every 15 minutes during a run, and 16 ounces of water with food after a run.
- Good form is important to avoid injuries. Keep your core supported, activate your glutes, and avoid slouching when you get tired. If you feel your form slipping, take a break and walk until you get your strength back.
- Keep an eye on your pace. To enjoy a proper jog, don’t exceed a 10-minute mile.
- Join a jogging group. You’ll be able to get advice from other joggers and have people to hold you accountable to your new routine. Plus, you can talk about the latest season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and exercise at the same time.
- Get a good pair of shoes. Be sure to try on a lot of options in the store. You’ll want something that fits without feeling too tight. And remember that more padding isn’t always best. Go for a shoe that feels comfortable and supportive.
- If you get into a long-term jogging habit, you’ll need to replace your shoes over time. Every 300 to 500 miles, it’s time for a new pair.
Promising better sleep, better moods, and a longer life, jogging may be the ideal exercise. Even at low intensity, jogging has a wide variety of health benefits, and it’s practically free to get started.
As long you pay attention to your form, rest when necessary, and try to get into a routine, jogging is an easy way to improve your fitness and feel better all around.