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Running is a great way to lose weight and de-stress. However, a benefit that is often overlooked is that running can help treat or prevent certain heart conditions, high blood sugar, and symptoms of depression.
While medications and regimens might be necessary to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life, running is free! Moreover, I’ve found that people who run often do so in social communities. There are many clubs and groups you can join to socialize and make new friends while improving your health.
You tell us: Have you been a part of any fun running clubs or groups in your community? Tell us Twitter with @MedStarHealth and #LiveWellHealthy.
How running can help with four health conditions
1. High blood pressure (hypertension)
Exercise, such as running, can help lower your blood pressure. Regular physical exercise can make your heart stronger, and a stronger heart can pump blood more easily, lowering your blood pressure. Furthermore, regular exercise can prevent your blood pressure from rising as you age and help keep your weight under control–another important way to avoid hypertension. With these benefits in mind, remember that exercise must be a done consistently to positively impact your blood pressure long term.
2. High cholesterol
Exercise can help raise good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Studies have shown that physically active people have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than those who are sedentary. Additionally, when combined with a healthy diet, exercise can help lower your total cholesterol numbers.
3. Type 2 diabetes
Exercise is an important part of the treatment plan for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Staying fit and active throughout life can help people control their diabetes and keep their blood glucose (blood sugar) levels in a healthy range, which is essential to preventing long-term complications, such as kidney disease and nerve pain.
Exercise can even help prevent blood glucose from rising to begin with. Exercise causes the muscles to contract, and it also increases insulin sensitivity–both of which help your cells use glucose for energy, rather than continuing to store it in the blood.
4. Depression symptoms
"Runner’s high” is a term that refers to the mental benefits of running. When you run, the brain releases endorphins, or chemicals that make you happy. This is a much better energy spike than consuming high-sugar products.
Running or brisk walking can help reduce some symptoms of clinical depression, according to studies. This benefit is likely due to the body releasing endorphins along with other factors, such as:
- Occupying your mind elsewhere
- Raising self-confidence
- Getting more social interaction
It’s important to remember that running isn’t a replacement for medical care. But it’s a good way to compliment what you’re already doing to manage ongoing health conditions while actively reducing the risk for others.
Running doesn’t require a lot of material commitment–just a good pair of shoes. Running can be an effective form of medicine and a fun, easy way to improve your health. Some people are a bit intimidated by running, especially in a group setting. My advice is to focus on finishing your goal, whether it’s running for half a mile or three miles. Don’t worry about how long it takes you or what people think, just relax and focus on your health.