Running and Your Health
In 1947, the World Health Organisation defined health as ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ While this has been debated ever since its formation, what has remained consistent is the importance of the three components of health; physical, mental and social well-being.
In this manner, running is synonymous with health. An abundance of research and evidence support the wealth of benefits to running and the positive impact on various aspects of health, thereby emphasising its importance as a holistic approach to overall wellness.
Firstly, in terms of physical benefits, running has been linked to improved cardiovascular health. Studies have demonstrated that regular running can enhance heart function, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, cancers and strokes. Running can also aid the prevention or management of physical and mental symptoms from a variety of conditions such as menopause and age-related illnesses like osteoporosis.
Additionally, running aids in weight management by burning calories and improving metabolism, which can contribute to a reduction in the risk of obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes. Furthermore, running has been associated with improved bone density, muscle strength and overall physical endurance, thereby promoting better physical fitness and resilience ultimately reducing the risk of injury.
Running has proven to be an effective strategy for reducing stress and anxiety. Research suggests that engaging in regular running can stimulate the release of endorphins, also known as "feel-good" hormones or a ‘runner’s high,’ which can elevate mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and stabilise your mood.
Furthermore, the practice of running has been linked to improved cognitive function, including enhanced memory and increased focus, leading to better mental clarity and overall cognitive well-being. Studies have also highlighted the role of running in promoting better sleep patterns, which in turn can positively impact mental health and overall well-being.
Finally, running can have significant social benefits. Joining a running club or participation in running events, such as marathons or community races, fosters a sense of camaraderie and belonging among participants.
The social aspect of running can lead to the development of supportive communities and networks, providing individuals with a sense of belonging and social support, which can contribute to improved overall well-being. Additionally, running with others or in groups can promote social interaction and interpersonal connections, thereby enhancing social skills and communication abilities.
In summary, incorporating regular running into one's lifestyle can lead to a healthier, more resilient and more connected individual, highlighting the importance of this form of exercise in enhancing the quality of life.
Where Can I Get Help?
While running has clear benefits to an individual’s physical, mental and social well-being, health can be influenced by several factors. If you are struggling with any aspect of health then the first thing to know is that is perfectly normal and ‘it is ok not to be ok.’ Below are a number of contacts, networks or organisations that you can contact for further support:
Your local GP - This is usually the initial contact for accessing healthcare, in the case of an emergency please call 999.
NHS 24 – Dial 111 for non-emergency health advice including a mental health hub.
Physiotherapist/Sports therapist – Allied health professionals that specialise in musculoskeletal injuries.
3rd Sector Organisations – There are a number of 3rd sector organisation that provide support ranging from addiction services like Alcoholics Anonymous, physical health charities like the British Heart Foundation and Breast Cancer Now and mental health charities like Scottish Association Mental Health (SAMH) and Samaritans.
Subject matter experts – Persistent niggles can be a common occurrence for runners, using the expertise those in running shoe shops, sports nutritionists etc can provide guidance on injury recovery and prevention.
Your local running club – Your local running club will have a welfare officer and coaches which can provide support or signpost you to the right people. In addition, the running community is full of amazing people who have a wealth of experience that can provide various types of support.