Benefits of Exercise

View the couch potato, obsessed with his/her soda and soap opera, still in too-tight jammies, cramming cookies into an overstuffed stomach, and you will see only a few reasons why that guy or gal should roll off the sofa and exercise.

While most people equate exercise and fitness with external appearance, many of the best benefits of exercise are internal.

First, you must decide what activity is best.  There are two main types, aerobic and anaerobic.  Think of heart healthy calorie-burning vs. muscle building.  Actually, you need both, because oxygen is needed to metabolize energy (calories), so the more efficiently your body can move oxygen, the more calories you will burn.  However, muscles are the fat-burning furnaces of the body, so if they are strong and toned, the body will burn fat more efficiently.  So an exercise program needs two components: aerobic activity like running, swimming, cycling, rowing or cross-country skiing, and anaerobic activity like weight lifting, core strengthening like abdominal work, and stretching.  Alternate the days you do your chosen exercises and you will get the benefits of both.

The benefits of running are that it is the cheapest, easiest, most convenient exercise program to begin.

Let’s look at how the benefits of running affect our health and happiness.


The health benefits of running are many.  In fact, the medical profession is now realizing that running is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your health.  When you go to the doctor, one of the first questions they ask is if you have a regular exercise program.

1-Increased cardiovascular ability and elasticity allows the circulatory system to function longer.  This is our life line.  The stress caused by running actually improves our heart, lungs and blood vessels.  This lowers our blood pressure, decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.  A properly toned and functioning cardiovascular system improves every other system of the body, reducing risk of disease in every cell.

2–Sweating flushes out your skin pores, leaving you looking younger than sedentary folk. (Make sure you wear sunscreen if you are outside, so your skin doesn’t wrinkle prematurely.)

3—Weight loss results from the high levels of calories burned.  Obesity is the number one health concern in the world right now.  (World Health Org)

4—Improved fitness lowers the risk for diabetes, and cancer

5—Stress on the bones strengthens them and decreases our chances for osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and other bone diseases later in life.

6—Toned muscles lessen degradation of the joints.  This is a surprising fact as many people equate running with joint problems.  If runners train properly, joint health is actually enhanced.  (Barder, 3/12/12)

7—Stronger core muscles decrease the risk of back pain.

8—Running increases coordination and mobility, reducing the risk of falls.  This is especially important for older people.  Even moderate running, 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week will provide these fitness benefits.

9—Reduces stress and insomnia.  Running can reduce the stress that keeps people pounding their pillows, trying to find a position where they can rest.  The relaxation and stress-reducing hormones released after running relieves both mind and body.


Although the physical benefits of exercise are reason enough to run, many runners follow their daily ritual for higher reasons.  This morning, I could see my breath in the cool spring morning air.  Yesterday we had a March snow storm in the mountains; there were even a few flakes dancing about me, melting as they hit the ground.  Mt. Charleston was swathed in golden, misty clouds, looking more like a far-off castle in Shangri-la than a mountain bordering Las Vegas.  The grass was crunchy beneath our feet as my husband and I ran our laps at the La cross field in the rose-colored light of a new day.   This weekend we will challenge ourselves with some trail running.

Running is part of our mental health regimen.  Along with a healthy spiritual life, running is the backbone of our emotional well-being.  Psychologists and psychiatrists prescribe running to lower anxiety and depression.  The research has confirmed its effectiveness as endorphins are released in the brain, causing the “runner’s high”.  But it is more than endorphins.  It’s the happiness you feel when you are out in nature, feeling at one with both the earth beneath you and the sky arching over you.  It’s the same feeling you get when clear blue-green waves break on white sand as you sprint by.  Your greatest gift, your own body, is fit for life, inside and out.  Like beauty feeds the soul, running feeds the spirit with a feeling of independence, well-being and optimism.  Whatever troubles come your way, running clears the mind, allowing you to reconnect with family or friends after a long, worrisome day at the office.  Conversely, solutions to problems can come clearer while you are pondering as you jog round a track.  It’s a good idea to change your running route to enjoy the benefits of both a challenging trail where both mind and body focus completely, and a familiar track or neighborhood run, where you can ponder the problems in your universe.

Running can become such a normal part of your routine that you wouldn’t think of living without it.


Lastly, there are some other benefits of running.

1–You can be a winner and conquer a race or your lazy disposition.  The discipline required increases both self-respect and gain the respect of others.

2—You are going to look gorgeous in that new dress or suit!

3—You can throw away your size 14 and buy size 6.

4—You can wonder what it is like to be sick.

5—You become wise—others listen to you

6– You learn to read the signs of nature like the ancients.

7—You gain the confidence of others and have more self-confience.

8—You are more likely to be hired.

10—You enjoy life to its fullest.


Begin today!