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10 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Run Every Day Graphic © healthpowerboost.com. Background photo: Pixabay (PD)
According to the World Health Organization, lack of physical activity is one of the leading causes of death and disability all over the world. In 2002, the WHO reported that over 2 million deaths per year were attributed to physical inactivity. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and even anxiety. 
Why Exercise? Studies in 2019 reported how over 80 percent of the world’s adolescent population is physically inactive and that this sedentary lifestyle places you at risk for major non-communicable diseases, especially cardiovascular disease.  According to Dr. Haimleamlak, physical inactivity is “a pandemic that needs urgent action”. However, we must take note that simply increasing your physical activity level will not magically decrease your risk for morbidity and mortality. Exercising should be easy, simple, and sustainable in order to see real change. A more active lifestyle simply needs to be part of your daily life. So what happens to your body when you exercise?
10 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Run Every Day
1. Increased Heart Rate
The first, and most obvious, is a faster heart rate. Various studies on exercise have reported improvements in heart rate, particularly heart variability or HRV; HRV is the amount of time in between heart beats, and good variability is a sign of good cardiac function. In 2015, researchers reported improvements in HRV after resistance exercise training over a span of eight weeks, as well as better muscle strength in patients with coronary artery disease. 
2. Increased Circulation And Oxygen Delivery
A heart that beats faster also allows blood to circulate faster in the human body. Exercise helps increase the delivery of blood and oxygen to various tissues and organ systems in the body. As we age, our oxygen consumption decreases significantly by around 10 percent each decade. Oxygen consumption is one of the standards used in measuring functional capacity. In a 2012 study, aerobic exercise was able to improve peak oxygen consumption among elderly participants, improving their ability to perform ADLs (activities of daily living) and their overall quality of life. 
A study in 2015 reported similar outcomes, this time among patients diagnosed with chronic heart failure. Exercise was able to improve oxygen transport and utilization, contributing to better physical capacity and quality of life. 
3. Stronger Heart Muscles
Because running causes your heart to beat faster and harder, it also exercises your heart muscles. A study in 2019 found that running was able to delay the onset of heart failure, improving the health and survival of subjects affected with pulmonary hypertension. The researchers found that running was able to improve heart muscle contractility, particularly in the right ventricle, or the side of the heart that sends blood pumping through the lungs to get oxygenated. 
5. More Brain Power
This is where things get really interesting! One of the most studied topics when it comes to running and exercise is neurological health. In 2017, a study found that running was able to increase neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons) in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.  An earlier study in 2016 linked a protein secreted by the muscles during running to improvement in cognition, particularly in the hippocampus region which is linked to memory function. 
These results can be linked to studies on Alzheimer’s disease, of which low physical activity is now established as a risk factor. According to researchers, physical exercise during the presymptomatic and predementia stages could help delay a third of dementia cases globally.  Cui, et. al. in 2018 also reported how exercise slowed cognitive decline in people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages. 
6. Stress Reduction And Improved Mood
One of the highlights of any form of exercise is the production of endorphins in the brain, called the “happy hormone”.  Research shows that exercise is able to reduce anxiety while inducing euphoria, effectively reducing stress and improving your mood.  With these mood improvements seen across the board in various studies, exercise, particularly running, can be viable option as a non-pharmacological treatment for depression. 
Other studies have also reported how running can decrease stress by way of the same mechanism seen previously – stimulating the hippocampus. Not only is this area of the brain tied to memory and cognition, but also our stress response.  In fact, a 2020 cross-sectional study on physical activity and mental health revealed that running, both acute/short-term and long-term, was able to stimulate known benefits to mental health such as positive mood changes, improved self-esteem, and decreased anxiety. 
7. Stronger Muscles
Running is one of the best ways to develop your leg muscles, which support the body during the physical activity. The intensity and pace of your stride when you run also affects how your muscles are strengthened.  Consequently, stronger muscles also improve running times and sprint performance.  If you want to skip leg day at the gym, going for a run may be a good alternative to keep your muscles in shape. Cycling and swimming are other beneficial alternatives of course.
9. Better Sleep
When the mind and body are in good condition after a bout of running or physical activity, sleep can come easier – and science has the results to back it up. In 2016, a study focused on exercise and sleep quality and found that running helped reduced stress and improved REM sleep in the test subjects.  A systematic review also revealed that exercise was able to improve sleep outcomes in adults, particularly among those affected by sleep apnea. 
10: Improved Wound Healing
A novel study on exercise focused on chronic wound healing, due to improved circulation. Bolton in 2019 reported that structured exercise training – particularly exercise that involves the calf muscles in the lower extremity such as running and walking – could improve acute wound healing in healthy elderly subjects and those with diabetes. 
There are numerous benefits to running and exercising in general, and warding away non-communicable disease seems to be at the top of the list. However, running can also improve our health holistically, specifically our mental, emotional, and psychological health as well.
 World Health Organization. Physical inactivity a leading cause of disease and disability, warns WHO. https://www.who.int/news/item/04-04-2002-physical-inactivity-a-leading-cause-of-disease-and-disability-warns-who
 Haileamlak, A. (2019). Physical Inactivity: The Major Risk Factor for Non-Communicable Diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341444/
 Lavie, C., et. al. (2019). Sedentary Behavior, Exercise, and Cardiovascular Health. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.312669
 Caruso, F., et. al. (2015). Resistance exercise training improves heart rate variability and muscle performance: a randomized controlled trial in coronary artery disease patients. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25384514/
 Fleg, J. (2012). Aerobic Exercise in the Elderly: A Key to Successful Aging. https://www.discoverymedicine.com/Jerome-L-Fleg/2012/03/26/aerobic-exercise-in-the-elderly-a-key-to-successful-aging/
 Hirai, D., et. al. (2015). Exercise training in chronic heart failure: improving skeletal muscle O2 transport and utilization. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26320036/
 Soares, L., et. al. (2019). Voluntary running counteracts right ventricular adverse remodeling and myocyte contraction impairment in pulmonary arterial hypertension model. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31639399/
 Vivar, C. & van Praag, H. (2017). Running Changes the Brain: the Long and the Short of It. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29021361/
 Moon, H., et. al. (2016). Running-Induced Systemic Cathepsin B Secretion Is Associated with Memory Function. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27345423/
 De la Rosa, A., et. al. (2020). Physical exercise in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7498620/
 Cui, M., et. al. (2018). Exercise Intervention Associated with Cognitive Improvement in Alzheimer’s Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866875/
 Cleveland Clinic. Endorphins. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23040-endorphins
 Siebers, M., et. al. (2021). Exercise-induced euphoria and anxiolysis do not depend on endogenous opioids in humans. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33582575/
 Hamer, M., et. al. (2012). Physical activity, stress reduction, and mood: insight into immunological mechanisms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22933142/
 Gujral, S., et. al. (2019). Exercise Effects on Depression: Possible Neural Mechanisms. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6437683/
 Kannangara, T., et. al. (2011). Running reduces stress and enhances cell genesis in aged mice. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458010000102
 Oswald, F., et. al. (2020). A Scoping Review of the Relationship between Running and Mental Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7663387/
 Dorn, T., et. al. (2012). Muscular strategy shift in human running: dependence of running speed on hip and ankle muscle performance. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22573774/
 Blagrove, R., et. al. (2018). Effects of Strength Training on the Physiological Determinants of Middle- and Long-Distance Running Performance: A Systematic Review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29249083/
 Thompson, R., et. al. (2016). Wheel running improves REM sleep and attenuates stress-induced flattening of diurnal rhythms in F344 rats. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27124542/
 Kelley, G., et. al. (2017) Exercise and sleep: a systematic review of previous meta-analyses. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28276627/
 Bolton, L. (2019). Exercise and Chronic Wound Healing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30694211/
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