One exercise fixes all Need a reason to get you out the door today? Here are 10 of the best...
Why do you run? Whenever I am asked that question I give a different answer. There are so many reasons to run, all of which overpower a lack of time and the UK’s standard sideways rain to help get me out and hitting the trails.
Two of the biggest driving forces for me are the chance to escape and think, away from the 100-mile-an-hour world of my family or work, and the things you see out on the trail. Being a doctor, though, I’m keen for more people to take up running, because it is one of the best things you can do for your health.
TOP TEN HEALTH BENEFITS OF TRAIL RUNNING
From living longer to cheering you up, trail running has the answer to so many health problems. Forget over-the-counter medication; lace up your shoes instead.
1 REDUCES CHANCE OF EARLY DEATH
I thought I’d start with the one that makes my patients really sit up and listen. Although you are a bit more likely to get blisters and athlete’s foot, runners have a 30% reduction in the risk of early death. Reports from the NHS in Scotland and the Chief Medical Officers of the UK reveal that running 75 minutes a week gives you that level of protection from The Grim Reaper.
2 BOOSTS YOUR MOOD
Science has caught up with common sense. The evidence is consistent and growing that happy hormones are released by running, and that exercise in green space is even better than running in the gym. In fact, increasingly doctors are ‘prescribing’ exercise for low mood because it can easily be as effective as any tablet for mild to moderate depression.
3 LOWERS YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Bad day at work? Kids winding you up? Worrying about bills? Going for a run in Nature’s Gym is a powerful angst-buster, and can wind down the stress levels by a good few levels. Many of the alternatives (raiding the cookie jar or drinking alcohol) just make you feel guilty the next day.
4 HELPS BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
If you have a fever, are vomiting or are seriously unwell, then training is not for you that day, but on a day-to-day basis a sensible amount of running makes it far less likely you’ll get coughs, colds, the flu and other bugs – particularly if you get some decent sleep, and plenty of fresh fruit and veg on board, too.
5 IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP
This shows that exercise can get you into a virtuous cycle. Your sleep improves with running, which improves your immune system and reduces stress. As long as you don’t train in the last hour before bed, exercise helps you get a great kip and saves you counting sheep.
6 STRENGTHENS MUSCLES AND BONES
This will help you now and later in life. More than half of us will break a bone in our life, so keeping them strong is vital.
7 KEEPS YOUR HEART HEALTHY
The heart is definitely worth keeping happy and healthy. Heart disease is still the big show in town when it comes to death: over 40% of people in the UK die due to heart problems. But getting the blood pumping helps improve body composition, cholesterol, blood pressure and all sorts of other things that keep your heart healthy.
8 REDUCES THE LIKELIHOOD OF YOU DEVELOPING TYPE 2 DIABETES
The tsunami of type 2 diabetes means that many, many more people are getting the condition than when our parents were young. The risks (apart from the inconvenience having to take tablets or inject yourself with insulin) include nerve, kidney, eyesight and heart problems.
9 GOOD FOR THE BRAIN LONG TERM
One third of people will get dementia. However, you can delay that or even avoid it by hitting the trails. And more positively, running increases productivity and mental well-being meaning you are more likely to get that promotion, and then enjoy a long and happy retirement!
10 KEEPS THE WEIGHT OFF
No matter how hard you try, you just can’t outrun a bad diet. The amount of running you have to do to burn a litre of cola is astronomical, but running helps us in our bid to keep slim, and most of us are keen to avoid the middle-age spread!