Why You Don’t Need to Be an Awesome Runner to Reap the Benefits:
The health benefits of running have been well known for a long time but how much do you actually need to run to start reaping them?
The true answer is a lot less than you’re probably thinking!
Researchers have looked at a lot of studies about running from the last few decades and their verdict is this: it’s the fact that you’re running in the first place that racks up the health benefits, not the length of your run or the mileage you’re clocking up.
For those of you who can “only” run a few miles a week or class yourself as more of a jogger than a runner, it’s time to stop feeling woefully inadequate and inferior when you
see seasoned hardcore runners pounding the streets!
Here’s why less is definitely more when it comes to your running mileage and why it’s more than okay to embrace being an “average” runner!
The Health Benefits of Running
Running on a regular basis has some great benefits for your health, including:
- Keeping your cardiovascular system healthier, including lower blood pressure
- Keeping your BMI in check
- Helping to maintain a healthy weight
- Reducing your potential for developing Type 2 diabetes
- Helping to reduce the risk of developing some cancers
- Helping to treat depression
- Helping to improve your memory
- Reducing your rate of cognitive decline as you get older
Studies have also suggested that runners can be up to 45% less likely to die early and can live a bit longer than people who don’t run at all. Jogging cuts your risk of early death too.
If you’re only going to take up one form of exercise, running (or jogging if you’re more suited to it) is definitely one of the best options!
How Much Is Enough to Get the Health Benefits of Running?
A lot of runners make the mistake of thinking that they have to clock up some extremely good mileage to get the type of benefits we talked about in the previous section but this is a total myth.
Running countless miles a week might seem impressive and you might assume that more is always better when it comes to your health. If you’re running solely to reap the health benefits, you certainly don’t need to be on a par with training for a marathon to get there.
In fact, science suggests that it’s not actually bringing any bigger benefits from a health perspective when you do this (other than better cardiovascular fitness compared to someone who runs less).
Here’s a look at how much aerobic exercise (including jogging and running) is needed to start getting some of the health benefits associated with it:
Cognitive function: Researchers have looked at breast cancer survivors (specifically those who were experiencing memory and concentration problems as a side effect of their chemotherapy treatment) and how much they exercised. The results were both surprising and encouraging, with just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise leading them to perform better on cognitive performance tests.
Reducing depression: Just 30 minutes on the treadmill for 10 days in a row has been shown to have a positive impact on even severe depression.
Living longer: Research has shown that jogging on a regular basis can improve your life expectancy by over 5 years for women and over 6 years for men. This is calculated on the basis of 1-2 hours of jogging per week at a slow or average pace so you really don’t even need to be a serious jogger (never mind runner!) to up your chances of living that little bit longer.
So, what does this equate to specifically for running? Not that much, in the grand scheme of things!
The optimum distance to aim is a mere 6 miles per week, according to research from the Mayo Clinic.
You don’t have to up the intensity to make up for running fewer miles either – a moderate 6 mile run will still start bringing the health benefits we’ve talked about. In fact, even a relatively slow jog counts as aerobic exercise too!
The important thing is that you’re getting your heart pumping and working yourself hard enough to feel a bit breathless (but not so much that you’re gasping for air!). Even jogging does this so there’s absolutely no shame if this is your level and you don’t feel comfortable going beyond it.
The bottom line …
So now you know that the health benefits of running actually start to kick in when you’re “only” jogging or running fairly slowly, the days of feeling that you’re some kind of failure as an “average” or “okay” runner are definitely a thing of the past.
It’s time to change your mindset when it comes to running and stop assuming that it’s a bad thing to be an “okay” runner. Science says you should be pretty proud of yourself; after all, you’re doing more than enough to reap the health benefits of running!
View our Big Sisters post here.