We know that running is a great full body workout, burning calories, strengthening muscles including our heart, but is there a certain level of kilometres to get extra results? All kilometres count, but there are some extra benefits of long-distance running.
What is long-distance running?
Distance running is any run that requires us to focus in our endurance and mental training to continue pushing past an easy workout.
We’re talking about our weekly long runs that challenge us and add to life expectancy.
During half marathon training the long run might be 14-21K.
During marathon training this might be 21-35K.
Ultra-runners will be taking the distance even farther depending upon their upcoming goal and training.
A single one hour run can add 7 hours to our life:)
This doesn’t mean we need to run a marathon every day or that we want to go overboard, but if once a week we can do a run 30%-40% longer than our other runs but at an easy pace, we will see big benefits.
There are plenty of other benefits from long-distance runs that we can’t get from a short easy run.
7 Benefits Of Long-Distance Running
We will love distance running, the intensity will remain low, giving us time to see the world and nature around us provide great mental therapy.
The Long Run Benefits We Should Appreciate
Helps fight signs of depression
Better sleep quality
Increased muscle mass and weight loss
Prevention of cognitive decline
1. How long-distance running improves heart health?
Long-distance running is one of the best ways to improve our heart health. The act of long-distance running will work out all sorts of muscle tissues in our body, including those that line arteries and veins which will improve blood flow.
Runners have a 30% lower risk of dying from any cardiovascular issue.
One reason is that it increases our VO2 Max. That means our body can more efficiently pump oxygen to the muscles, which further improves our ability to run farther or faster.
A research and study found that distance running can reduce blood pressure by about three points for each weekly kms we cover. This is so helpful for people with high blood pressure and it’s a great way to reduce heart disease risk. Adding a few runs in each week, with one being longer is a key to keeping our heart pumping at its fullest.
2. Distance Running is Good for Our Mental Health
Running can reduce anxiety and depression.
There are both hormonal and brain chemicals, along with mental reshaping occurring.
The runner’s high is a natural phenomenon that occurs thanks to long-distance running. It triggers our internal endocannabinoid system (same thing as CBD).
Endorphins and endocannabinoids react when the body is under stress. Different from the sort of stress we feel with big life stress issues, physical stress on the body from running or other exercise causes the production of these natural pain-relievers.
The runner’s high is the reason that humans could run for as far and fast as they did, thanks to the natural pain-killing properties released to the brain.
3. Distance Running Improves Self-Esteem
The second piece of mental health is the way that long-distance running allows us to see ourselves.
It’s tough and it pushes us to our limits mentally, physically, and emotionally.
We learn about ourself when we’re out there on that long-distance run, the good, bad, and ugly parts of who we are as well as what makes us feel awesome.
A few of the many ways we’ll see self-esteem improve:
Chasing a tough goal is rewarding, we like a challenge.
Sense of accomplishment distance runners crossing a finish line.
Disconnecting from digital and screen time, forces us to focus on the now and gives us time to truly think.
It’s a chance to be present with our thoughts.
It reminds us of how powerful our body is and our mind.
When distance running, we can feel our mind is much emptier than during other types of exercise, so it’s easier for us to just think without feeling overwhelmed or distracted. It can change the relationship with our body by 100%, and allow us to question other things we thought were too hard.
4. Running Long for Better Quality Sleep
We have many benefits with our long-distance running could improve sleep.
First, most distance runners run in the morning. This means we are exposing our eyes to light early in the morning which releases cortisol (a good thing this is when we want it highest) and that starts a clock to when our cortisol will be lowest for sleep.
Second, through distance running we become better at dealing with all of life’s stressors. That means less anticipation at night, more ways to release tension and care for our bodies.
Our good mood is also supported by the endocannabinoids and dopamine. Which means a lower chance of fighting insomnia.
Surprise Bonus: Distance running is also a great workout for our mind because distance runners are constantly balancing on one foot. And balance exercises have been proven to help with insomnia.
5. Distance Running and Muscles
Long-distance runners will often have a higher muscle to fat ratio because running causes an increase in metabolism and burning of glucose for energy. Metabolism is increased due to muscles, due to continued activity and fueling the body for the work at hand. All of these means that long-distance running is a great beneficial way to manage weight loss.
This is not to say that distance running is the best way to build muscle, but to perform some weight lifting training sessions should be part of any running routine, but running does absolutely build muscle as well.
When distance running, our body will use different muscles than it does during a shorter run. In particular, we will build up stronger legs, glutes, hips and core muscles. These are all required for balance, coordination and injury prevention in covering many kilometres.
Distance runners have lower levels of markers for muscle injury after working out, which means we are able to recover faster.
6. Long -Distance Running and the Brain
One of the best ways to prevent Alzheimer’s or general cognitive decline is intense physical activity. Unfortunately, too many people believe that as we get old we need to drop all intensity. Numerous studies have shown that we can and should include some intensity at all ages. Of course, we change the amount of recovery and plans for running in old age, but we shouldn’t stop. In fact, one study showed that those who ran just 33 kilometres per week reduced their risk by 40%.
Moderate intensity exercise in the morning improved working memory and overall executive cognitive function. We’re talking long-term benefits from our aerobic exercise.
7. Running Improves Lung Capacity
Distance running can help increase lung capacity.
Runners are constantly breathing in large volumes of air to fuel muscles, which means the diaphragm is being put to work. As we age it can indeed become weaker, which means more breathing issues and a weaker heart. The more we practice running long the easier it is for our lungs to adapt to the increased demand, so distance runners have better airflow than those who do not perform long-distance runs regularly.
Enjoy Long Beautiful Fun Runs, Feel Healthier, Happier, Great Strength and Well Being!