Running is an age-old activity that is renowned for being crazily healthy and keeping you fit, which is pretty much spot on. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? Like all exercises, it has its pros and cons, so it’s important to know where you stand to get the most out of the exercise and make sure it’s what’s best for you personally.

The Exercise

a person lacing up bright green trainers

Cardio

Running is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise, as many of us know. It gets the heart beating and the blood pumping, allowing you to go at your own pace. You can run as far or as long as you need to suit your needs.

It’s good for fat burning, stamina-boosting, and pretty much everything else fitness related as a good all-round exercise for the whole body. It also has room for significant variation, like adding incline or decline to make sure you’re working the right muscle groups or training for the right scenarios, which is a huge benefit. There's a lot going for it.

Muscle Groups

The upper leg muscles are the main muscle group being targeted for logical reasons. The entire mechanic of running is based on propelling yourself forwards using the power of your legs, ranging everywhere from the glutes through to muscles in the feet. Running does, however, have a strong focus on the lower leg rather as well as the upper leg muscles which is uncommon in exercise.

If used alongside other strength exercises for the legs, running should help you build leg muscle mass and strength together. That's crucial when running, especially for time/distance.

HIIT

When we look at cardio and strength training together, we can actually utilise the benefits of both and create a high-intensity interval training session just from running alone.

Alternating between sprinting with gentle jogging to rebuild stamina means you can be efficient too. It’s possible to get as good of a workout in just 20-30 minutes than you would get from running consistently for an hour, which is much better for some. This method also increases endurance in running as well, due to the increased time spent sprinting and elevated heart rate and breathing.

The Activity

two people running together down a country path

Hobby

Running may well be a hobby for many avid runners rather than just an exercise. It hosts lots of different enjoyable aspects, from running alone to clear your head or just to get some good hard exercise and keep healthy. You can even try running with friends to help keep each other motivated and pass the tie together whilst making yourselves feel great. Exercising is a great way to be sociable!

There’s something for everyone. Because of its diversity, outdoor running can also open up other avenues like being able to go out and explore your surroundings. You have the chance to see the sights of everyday life that you might not normally appreciate. Running even allows you to just get out of the house and out of routine when you need it, which is a great way to enjoy the weather you’re running in (sometimes at least).

Convenient

This idea of making exercise enjoyable goes past hobby running as well. A whole world of convenience can be opened up to you if you start using it practically rather than just an exercise or a hobby. You have the option to travel or commute to places in a healthy way, missing out everyday annoyances like traffic. It's a great time saver.

On top of that, you really give yourself the best possible attitude toward your day. It costs absolutely nothing to be able to run once you have your shoes, so it's efficient across the board. If outdoor running isn't the thing for you, you have the option to use a treadmill and run in the comfort of your own home too. Run in the environment that best suits you.

The Risks

a person clutching their knee

Injury

Despite all of these good sides to running, it is still not without its risks. Running can cause joint related issues if over-performed, just like most exercises, so it’s extremely important that you run correctly and know your capabilities. Although running is a great all-around exercise, it can really take its toll on joints because of the high impact of the exercise which is generally more of an increasing concern with age.

If you are going to run, it really is crucial that you master your technique and know how to maintain it. This usually involves leaning forwards rather than remaining perfectly upright and trying to run on the centre of your foot instead of going more to one side, but everyone is different.

When fatigue begins to kick it, it also becomes easier to start to slam your feet down much harder than you would if you were still performing well, and this may be time for a breather. The higher the impact, the higher the risk in the long and the short term.

Pulling a muscle is another easy issue when you are running if you don't prepare yourself properly, so learn some leg stretches that you can do well! Leg muscles can be brutal when it comes to pulling a muscle, so it’s essential to really warm up every single muscle right before a run, as well as making sure you cool down when you’re finishing up, and when you’re resting on top of that.

Equipment

There’s equipment available that make a lot of these problems much easier to handle. Running shoes especially have really changed the game in terms of comfort and technique while protecting your joints too. It's always a good idea to make sure that you're getting the best ones to suit your needs.

An increase in padding in the right places means that the shoes act as a shock absorber, taking much of the impact and stress off of your joints to ensure your knees do not get more damaged than they need to be. You can make things easier for your joints if you run on a softer surface on top of that. Treadmills or even grass are good examples as they are natural shock absorbers, but preference -plays a large part here.

 

Ultimately, running is incredibly effective cardiovascular exercise. It helps you to keep fit and healthy while improving your leg muscles too. It's an awesome exercise across the board, and if you do it properly, it's very limited in danger. Choose the style that suits you personally, and the benefits will show soon enough.

 

 

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Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.