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How Does Running Help the Body?

by
author image Stan Mack
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.
How Does Running Help the Body?
Running strengthens the body and focuses the mind. Photo Credit GaudiLab/iStock/Getty Images

The general effects of exercise on the human body are decreased body fat, improved metabolism, increased flexibility, more efficient oxygen delivery throughout the body, elevated mood, increased strength and greater endurance. Running provides all these benefits to your body and more. If you’re a beginner, start off with brisk walking and transition to running over the course of several weeks so your body can get used to the movements.

Lower-Body Effects

Running is primarily a lower-body exercise, meaning it relies mainly on your legs, feet and hips. Running improves the flexibility of your joints, as well as develops your lower-body muscles. Most people swing their arms while running, which provides some upper-body exercise too. To get more upper-body benefits, pause your running workout occasionally to perform jumping jacks, pushups or other exercises that incorporate upper-body muscles.

Speed and Endurance

Running not only increases your lower-body strength, it also improves your coordination. With this improved strength and coordination, you’ll eventually be able to run faster than you could before, particularly if you incorporate interval training into your workouts. Running regularly also develops cardiovascular endurance, meaning that your heart and lungs are better able to supply your muscles with the fuel they need to work continuously over long periods of time.

Calories

Like other forms of exercise, running burns calories. For example, a 125-lb. person burns 283 calories while running at 6 mph for 30 minutes, according to the American Council on Exercise. You can increase the weight-loss benefits by running faster or up inclines. Either of these will make your body work harder, so combining both elements maximizes the number of calories you burn.

An effective way to design a custom running workout is to use a treadmill that allows you to set both the incline and the speed. While it is true that treadmills make running a bit easier because they pull your feet back underneath your body, for most people this doesn’t make much of a difference in caloric burn.

Considerations

Consult your doctor before beginning a running program if you have any medical conditions that might affect your ability to run. If you have joint pain, arthritis in your lower body or foot problems, it might be better to find a low-impact form of exercise, such as water aerobics.

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