The Many Benefits of Running

group of young people running on trail through woods
A woman runs down a path toward the sunset.

We all know that running is an incredibly effective form of exercise. What many of us may not realize is that running has far more benefits than just getting into shape.

Running improves overall mental health and cognitive performance, relieves stress, increases confidence, builds strength in the muscles and joints, provides weight control, strengthens the immune system, promotes cardiovascular health and reduces blood pressure. It can be considered a lifestyle and a way of life.

Running doesn’t have to be a tedious and exhausting form of exercise and shouldn’t be discouraging. Running just 5 minutes a day or incorporating running into your walking routine as interval training can be extremely effective in reaping its benefits, and contribute to an ideal aerobic exercise goal of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week.* 

It is important to educate yourself to prevent injury and burnout and to maximize performance. Taking the following tips into consideration when creating a running routine will help maximize your results so that you can truly experience all the amazing benefits that running has to offer.

Proper shoes and technique: Having the right running shoe for your body type, foot type and running gait is critical in preventing injury. Visit your local running store to have your gait and foot evaluated for the proper running shoe. While you are evaluated for the proper shoe, most running stores will watch you run and walk to evaluate your gait. Many running stores have a 30-day return policy so you can try out the shoe to see if it is the right fit. 

Rest and recovery: Taking adequate time off in between running sessions will help you recover, build muscle strength and endurance as well as help reduce your risk of injury. It is also important to increase your distance and pace gradually over several outings. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus.

Nutrition and hydration: Proper nutrition and hydration is important when running regularly. Making sure your body is adequately fueled and hydrated before and after your run helps reduce risk of injury and helps you to perform optimally.   

Mix it up: Adding variety to your running keeps it interesting. Mix up your routes, distances and pace. Running on trails or treadmills versus concrete reduces the impact your body takes while running and can help reduce your risk of injury. Add in other forms of exercise such as swimming, biking, strength-training or yoga throughout the week.This complements your running routine, gives your body a break from running and increases strength and endurance.   

Find a running group or a running buddy: Motivation and accountability is key in successfully sticking to a long term running routine. Joining a running group or finding a running buddy will help hold you accountable to your goals and make achieving these goals more enjoyable.

Make a schedule, set goals and stick to it: Sticking to a schedule and setting regular reasonable goals helps you stay motivated. Signing up for a running event like a 5k or a charity run is a great way to stay motivated. There are also running apps and websites available where you can make running schedules and set goals.


*Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. 


— By Mallory Anderson, ND, resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health