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Running: The 10 benefits of running

Published: Friday, June 7, 2013 10:58 p.m. CDT
(SVM file photo)
Jessica Langford of Rockford smiles at Haymarket Square in Dixon after finishing the 2009 Reagan Run. The giddiness resulting from endorphins released while running is a big reason runners get hooked on the activity.

By this time of the year, Dixonites fall into two categories: those planning on participating in the 14th annual Reagan Run 5k on July 6 and those who aren’t.

Those who aren’t are probably wondering what the big deal is about running. Why get up earlier than I have to? Why waste my time? Why do something so hard? Why risk an injury? What’s wrong with watching ESPN instead?

Here’s your answers.

Weight management: For those trying to lose or maintain weight, it’s difficult to find a better exercise than running.  Minute per minute, running burns more calories than any exercise, with the exception of cross-country skiing. Many get into running with the goal of losing weight. Most find they end up feeling much better, stronger and fitter.  The miles come much easier with time.  

Improve overall health: Running is a fantastic activity for improving and maintaining good health. It raises the good cholesterol, or HDL, and reduces the risk of hypertension, diabetes, strokes and heart disease. Running puts stress on bones and muscles which, in turn, strenghtens the bones and decreases the risk of osteoporosis and, thus, life-threatening hip fractures. The risk of certain cancers is also decreased by running.  

Meet cool people and develop friendships: I would challenge anyone to stand in the starting line of the Reagan Run and not find a friendly person to talk to. Running with a friend is a great way to catch up, whether you see each other on a daily basis or less frequently. Interesting conversations always make the time and miles pass quickly.

The infamous runner’s high: Non-runners might want to skip this section, because you just wouldn’t understand. Running releases endorphins, causing a feeling of happiness or euphoria. It’s that strange feeling of exhaustion combined with giddiness that keeps many runners coming back for more. The feeling is enhanced by running outside. So turn off the treadmill and head to the bike path. Regular runners have less depression, chronic fatigue and Vitamin D deficiency, and are almost never grumpy at work or when dealing with difficult family members (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration).

Improve your success in any sport:  I would challenge anyone to find a sport that running doesn’t help with (bowling and chess don’t count). By being stronger, fitter, and improving lung capacity and muscle strength, performance in any sport will improve. 

Versatile and relatively inexpensive: Running can be done almost anywhere and anytime (using common sense for safety). A good pair of running shoes and weather-appropriate clothes are all you need. On vacation, running is a great way to explore your new surroundings, and maybe even meet some locals.

Develop personal goals: Running is friendly on aging. Running can be done at any age, and each individual can set their own standards of success. The general running community accepts that goals change as people change. Boston Marathon-qualifying times, for example, are based on sex and age and get easier as you “grow up.”

Sanity: My personal favorite. Between work, children, bills to pay, smartphone overload and bad news all over the world, who doesn’t need time to escape and unwind? So whether you run alone or with a friend, inside or outside, morning, lunch break or evening, take the time to put your and the world’s problems behind you. You’ll have a much fresher perspective when you return.

Better sleep, improved mental sharpness: Studies show insomniacs fall asleep significantly faster on days they run. Just avoid running within an hour or two of bedtime. Those happy endorphins might still be with you at lights-out time. In addition, running might prevent you from becoming an insomniac in the first place. In general, runners make less mistakes at work, are more efficient with their time and, overall, student runners have a higher GPA in high school and college.

Being part of the Reagan Run: Yes, of course  after all your hard work, you’ve earned the ultimate reward – participating in the best 5K run in the midwest! Enjoy the hills and earn the priviledge of partaking in all the good food and drink after the race. See ya there! Who knows? Maybe you’ll even end up with a PR!

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