Considering Running? Now’s the Time!

If you’re considering a new exercise regimen during this time of sheltering, I’d like to put in a plug for running. In completing research recently on longevity and healthy aging, I came across “The Runner’s Study,” which prompted me to want to convey the rewards of running, something I started in elementary school, continued throughout college and medical school and today still find beneficial for both the body and mind.

In addition to enhancing immune health, bone and skeletal health, longevity and aging, running is an ideal form of exercise during this time of social distancing, as it doesn’t require a gym membership, can take place almost anywhere, and it offers an opportunity to spend time outdoors, connecting with nature.

A couple of facts about running:

Aerobic exercise tends to have the strongest evidence of longevity and multisystem benefits, showing favorable effects on cardiometabolic issues such as cardiovascular risk, hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, inflammation and more.

Running is beneficial for brain and mental health, cognitive function and mood, enhancing neuroplasticity, improving blood flow through the brain, autonomic balance and function of the hypothalamic pituitary axis.

There are, of course, myths surrounding how running affects the body. For example, many believe that running causes arthritis in the joints (osteoarthritis), but research suggests just the opposite. In addition, studies show the onset of disability is delayed in runners, and runners have had less need for hip and knee replacements.

Lately we’ve seen quite a bit of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, and, I feel, the personification of how running slows the effects of aging: At age 79, Fauci’s workload recently caused him to “cut back” his runs to 3.5 miles per day.

I recently read that Fauci refers to running as a “stress reliever” and an opportunity to spend time outside. I agree. Over the years I’ve discovered that there is a natural connection between running and meditation. During stressful times in medical school, I recognized that I was able to clear my mind and get into a “zone” when running. Even today, I find that this form of meditation while running is refreshing, as often my job requires me to sit and running provides an opportunity to connect exercise, mind and body.

Additionally, running is an activity my family enjoys. My sister runs, both of my children run (one is a cross country runner and the triathlete), and my mother, age 74, spends at least an hour on the treadmill every day. One of my favorite pastimes while recently working from home has been training with my daughter to run a virtual 5k ​on Mother’s Day. We enjoy trying to improve our times and motivating one another, and it has truly been a gift to spend this time together. I hope you’ll consider giving running a try and that it enhances your life and health as much as it has mine.

Worth Reading

Bauman, AE., Biddle, SJ., Grgic, J., et al., Is running associated with a lower risk of all-cause cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysis, NCBI/2019

Berra, Lindsay, Dr. Anthony Fauci Is an Avid Running, Even When He Works 19-Hour Days, Men’s Health/2020

Digitale, Erin, Running slows aging and postpones disability, study finds, Stanford Medicine News Center/2018

Drucker-Colin, R., Morales-Montor, J., Nava-Castro, KE., et al., Chronic exercise modulates the cellular immunity and its cannabinoid receptors expression, NCBI/2019

Foster, C., Heinonen, A., Kelly, P., et al., Health benefits of different sport disciplines for adults: Health benefits of different sport disciplines for adults: systematic review of observational and intervention studies with meta-analysis, NCBI/2015

Grunseit, A., Merom, D., Richards, J., Running on a high: parkrun and personal well-being, NCBI/2017

Harrast, MA., Gessel, T., Running Dose and Risk of Developing Lower-Extremity Osteoarthritis, NCBI/2019

Michaelis PhD, Ben, Running IS Meditation: How to turn running into a mindfulness practice, Psychology Today/2016

Mipham, Sakyong, Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind, Harmony publishing/2012

van Praag, H., Vivar, C., Running Changes the Brain: the Long and the Short of it, NCBI/2017