Is running really good for you?
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Running is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep fit. Richard Porritt makes the case for lacing up those trainers – and explores how to make sure you don’t get bored en route
Many people start running and never stop.
It can quickly become a compulsion. Soon, new runners find they are planning time in their day to get outside and work up a sweat.
It is the most natural and simple of sporting activities and every year young and old, up and down the UK, enter races ? whether to prove speed, endurance or both.
But you don’t have to be winning races to improve your health. By running even a small distance just a few times a week you are likely to add years to your life.
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The runners’ high
Sounds like a myth, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t.
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Runners often report a feeling of euphoria while they are mid-workout and researchers have put this down to endorphins released in the brain.
Studies show that during runs the pre-frontal and limbic areas of the brain pump out these happy head chems.
In fact, it might even be hard-wired from our cavemen ancestors.
Back when humans still hunted for their food we would have often been forced to run all day, everyday.
But whether you buy into the caveman link or not, one thing is accepted the planet over – exercise will make you feel better. And because of this, it is the best way to beat stress. Had a bad day at work? Go for a run. Kids make you want to scream? Run. Feeling blue for no reason? RUN.
A 2012 study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that people who run on average three times a week had better moods, sleep and concentration during the day.
But isn’t running bad for your body?
There are lots of excuses people make for not getting out there and giving it a go.
One of the favourite myths is that running is bad for your knees. Nonsense.
As long as you are in general good health and your technique is sound, running should not ruin your knees, hips or back… you might end up with a few black toenails, though.
Running increases bone mass and can actually prevent age-related bone loss. Researchers at Boston University go as far as to claim there is absolutely no connection between distance running and arthritis in the knee in later life.
But most startling of all the scientific studies was a wide-ranging piece of research completed in 2009 by Finnish boffins which concluded that people who complete regular runs – or similar exercise – were 50% less likely to die prematurely from cancer.
But isn’t it a bit boring?
Well, if we are honest, it can be. There is undoubtedly a loneliness that accompanies the long-distance runner.
Some runners listen to music or try other mental techniques to keep their head together, as well as their body.
But maybe the answer is variety – and a new group of Suffolk runners seems to have cracked it.
The Suffolk Trial Runners – formed in April – regularly have upwards of 70 runners enjoying different routes through the beautiful Suffolk countryside. No-one is ever going to get bored of that.
The group was founded by Keith Borrett, Jennifer Devaney, Peter Woods and Liz Beighton in a bid to offer runners of all abilities the chance to enjoy the great outdoors together.
Runner and group spokesman Clare Phillips said the group’s ethos is similar to the popular Parkrun events, in that everyone is welcome and you run exactly how you want to – for fun or speed.
Already, runs have been organised across the county and the number of participants is growing.
“We have runners of all abilities – some people even walk,” she said. “It is more about getting out and experiencing the countryside.
“Runners get simple instructions as to the route and everyone helps each other out to get around.
“The distances vary and sometimes there is a short route available as well.
“We focus very heavily on the social element – it is such an important part of running. We always start and finish at a pub, so people can hang around and make friends.”
One last bit of science – researchers say running with friends releases even more of those incredible endorphins. Enjoy your high.
For more information on Suffolk Trail Runners, visit www.suffolktrailrunners.org.uk