This Is How Running Changes Your Body from This Is How Running Changes Your Body

This Is How Running Changes Your Body

The body is made to move. Jogging and running is an effective and cheap way of staying healthy year round. It doesn’t only improve how you look, but also how you feel – physically and mentally. All these tremendous benefits come with a few downsides, unless certain precautions are taken.

Bone density

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“When we regularly do weight bearing exercises our bones adapt to the added impact and weight by building new cells and developing new bone,” Physical Therapist Dr. John Gallucci says. As long as a person is training smart, by gradually increasing the distance he or she runs and taking breaks when needed, weight bearing activities can definitely be beneficial and ultimately will result in increased bone density, he adds. Bone density is the measurement of the mineral content inside your bones, and reduction of osteoporosis.  

Muscle/fat balance

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In general, the amount of energy (calories) in versus the amount of energy (calories) out is what determines a person’s weight. With a balanced diet in place, running can create a calorie deficit and promote fat loss through energy expenditure. Losing fat and gaining muscle is a key benefit of any exercise strategy, and running regularly can contribute to these desired results.

Preventing muscle loss

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Since cardio requires energy it can interfere with the energy required to build muscle mass, Dr. Gallucci says. “Therefore, too much cardio, to include running, can lead to a break down or lessening of muscle mass.” To prevent muscle loss from occurring, alternate the days (ex. Monday, Wednesday, Friday) that you include cardio into your training regimen and keep your running time to less than 45-60 minutes as any time beyond this, burns off muscle building calories, he adds.

Heart health

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We all know the saying that too much of one thing is never good- and the same principles apply to running in relation to the heart, according to Dr. Gallucci. One of the risks of excessive high intensity cardiovascular training is an enlargement of the heart which leads to diastolic dysfunction and heart failure, he adds. “Think about it, the heart is a muscle and therefore excessive, strenuous use of this muscle causes increased muscle mass or an enlargement of the heart.” When it comes to endurance type training, Dr. Gallucci says, research has shown that peak benefits are seen in those who run between 5 and 20 miles per week – with the ideal amount being between 10-15 miles. Once you reach the 25 miles or more per week the benefits start to decrease.

Soreness

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A proper warm up before and cool down after running is an important aspect of injury prevention and recovery, Dr. Gallucci says. “Static stretching should be completed immediately following your run while your muscles are still warm to decrease tightness, increase flexibility, alleviate muscle soreness and aid in avoiding muscle cramps.”

Runner’s knee

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Dr. Gallucci says that in order to prevent this condition from occurring, one should run on softer surfaces (i.e. rubber track vs. concrete pavement), keep mileage increases to less than 10 percent per week, gradually increase hill work, and ensure you are wearing the proper running shoe for your foot type and stride. “Additionally, strengthening your quadriceps will improve patellar tracking, and strengthening of the calf muscles will help prevent over-pronation of the foot, which are two leading causes of Runner’s Knee,” he adds.

Muscular endurance

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To improve one’s muscle endurance, one must work the targeted muscle group consistently, Dr. Gallucci says. “Because running is a repetitive sport, whereby the same motion occurs over and over again, improved muscular endurance can be seen in the targeted muscle groups, such as the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hip, core and low back muscles.”

“Black toenails”

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Black toenails are common in runners, especially those running for long distances, and are caused by repetitive hitting or rubbing of the toenail against the front of the running shoe, Dr. Gallucci says. This trauma causes a bruise or blood blister to form under the nail. “In order to prevent this from happening, ensure that you are wearing the correct running shoe size, which is a ½ inch bigger than your everyday shoe and allows for adequate space in the toe box.” Also, when trying on and purchasing your running shoes, do so at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen, he adds. “Additionally, trim your toenails regularly and be sure to wear good socks that allow the foot to breathe and do not hold too much moisture.”

The calves

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The calf muscle group can be much more difficult in terms of building mass than most other muscle groups for a few different reasons, according to Dr. Gallucci. However, the primary reason is that the anatomical configuration of the calves resists hypertrophy or an increase in size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of its component cells, he adds. “To combat this, the calves must be specifically targeted when designing your workout and should not be grouped into a general lower extremity exercise, such as the squat or lunge.” Include exercises such as standing calf raises, reverse calf raises and heel walks.

Working the abs

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The abs are, unfortunately, some of the hardest muscles to tone in the body because when it is stressed, it tends to store fat in the midsection, A major weapon to defined abs is in fact cardio,” according to experts. The transverse abdominis is the deepest of the four ab muscle. It is located around the abdominal region like a corset. Nothing targets that muscle like running. To strengthen the core even more while running, hold your bully button into your spine, without holding your breath. This will keep the core tighter and power up the limbs. It will also give you that nice side definition on your abdominals.

Helping with anxiety

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Running can help with anxiety disorders in several ways. Studies have found that exercise creates vibrant new brain cells. Physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function. In experiments, when mice that were allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor – such as exposure to cold water — their brains displayed a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, which is the region in the brain that regulates anxiety.