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Expert Exchange - 04/03/19

The Benefits of Long Distance Running

Last week we spoke with Owen Feeney, Athletic Rehabilitation Therapist about long-distance running, the demands it has on your body and what you can do to give your body a better chance at avoiding injury.

This week, we’re sticking with the running vibe: Owen walks us through some of the health benefits associated with long-distance running and what results you might expect to see!

Long-Distance Running: The benefits of all this racing around

Improved cardiovascular health

Your ticker will thank you for it! Long-distance running is the gold standard activity for improving your cardio health. Cardio training or aerobic activity is the repetitive contraction of muscle groups in your body, and that’s long-distance running basically by definition! Aerobic activity is the best form of training for your heart as it pushes your entire vascular (circulatory) system getting more oxygen into your bloodstream.

Greater lower body strength

Running is one of the most effective forms of strength training you can ever do. Different physical activities allow for different types of muscle fibres to be produced in the body. Running in particular, leads to the gain of lightweight and durable muscle fibres which means lean, flexible muscle mass. Lean, adaptable muscles are stronger and better able for endurance-based activity.

Increased stamina

Running, and long-distance running in particular, also helps to improve stamina. Stamina refers to our ability to perform at or close to full capacity and differs to strength or cardiovascular fitness. We increase stamina by training our back-up energy tank. That back-up tank, the ‘second wind’ that you get when you think you might be at the end of your endurance but somehow you manage to keep going; that’s stamina! The only way to train yourself to keep going is by getting your body accustomed to the demands of a specific type of activity, and then gently but consistently pushing a little harder. Long-distance running gives you this opportunity in spades.  

Running for Mental Health

In addition to all the physical health benefits you’ll get from your long-distance running programme, there’s now plenty of research pointing to all the mental health benefits that running can bring. Intense physical exercise like running long distances has been shown to improve sleeping habits as well as the quality of sleep you get. It aids in stress relief and release, and in some cases has proven to be as effective as certain therapy in addressing symptoms of depression.

Don’t forget to check out our first article in this series where Owen discusses the demands that long-distance running can put on your body, and our final instalment: long-distance running and preventing injury!

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