Like most forms of cardio, there are always benefits and risks that come with each one. Nothing is good in its most extreme, but moderate levels can definitely help improve one's life. Today we’ll go over the pro’s and con’s of long distance running.
Mentality - When it comes to fitness, most of us spend more time trying to come up with excuses NOT to do something than to do it. When an individual can develop the habit of going outside or on the treadmill for a 20 minute run, a couple times a week, that is a great thing. Health benefits aside, you’ve overcome a mental hurdle of developing a new habit, creating consistency, and showing yourself you can still get uncomfortable and overcome that. It also has been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety
Cardiovascular Health - From a physiological standpoint, a lot gets improved. From mitochondrial density, better aerobic capacity, to increased oxygen utilization, and heart health. Adding running to your regimen adds longevity to your life, and a better quality of life as the years go on.
Cheap - I don’t think it gets any cheaper than this. It’s FREE! All you need is a pair of shoes, and you can go run anywhere you want. No gym membership required, no workout partner, or equipment needed. It’s the easiest thing to get started with. While I DO recommend you having proper form, it isn't’ exactly the most technical sport out there. You can literally get up and go do it without very little coaching.
Weight Loss - Of course there are the weight loss benefits that come with it. Running expends calories, and for many it’s helped shed many pounds. While you don’t want to overdo it, adding modest amounts of running into your life, gets you out of your sedentary life where you spend your days sitting at a desk, sitting at a car, sitting at home, sitting everywhere! Get those hips moving!
Joint Injuries - The problem with TOO much running, is the mileage. Think about our cars. The engine, the tires, every part about them can only handle so much mileage until they need to be fixed or repaired. Our body is way more complex, but also not as replaceable. You only get one set of bones. The hips, knees, legs, and back can only handle so much stress. Do you really want to plow through 1,000 miles of wear and tear before our 30? For what, a marathon? If you look up the biggest issues for even elite marathon runners, it’s that they have to take MONTHS off after races because of the chronic impact. Form is important as well, as that can lead to many injuries such as shin splints.
Weak Immune System - If you are running a ton of mileage, that is still a stress. Chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol. Cortisol is great at mobilizing carbs for fuel during the run, but if it’s never brought back down when you are done running, it’ll reduce your immune system’s ability to function. If you are constantly running 90 minutes or more a day, and not eating to recover, or eating the right things, you are risking lowering your immune system's optimal function.
The bottom line is any form of exercise is better than remaining sedentary on the couch all day. If you enjoy running, it is definitely worth adding to your daily life. Just make sure you ease into it, and like most things, don’t over do it. Listen to your body, and take breaks as needed.