Health benefits that will spur you to hit the running track

There is no simpler or cheaper exercise than a daily jog around the neighbourhood

Running is one of the most popular exercises in the world, not surprising given it is the easiest to pick up and requires minimum gear.

You do not need a gym membership or to own any specialised equipment. All you need is a pair of running shoes and you are good to go.

Start at your own pace, set your preferred duration or distance, and run any time and anywhere.

Solo runs are great for clearing the mind while group runs can motivate and push you out of your comfort zone.

Here are some other compelling reasons to start a regular running routine.

It is effective for weight loss or maintenance

Cardio exercises such as running, rowing, cycling and swimming will raise your heart rate to a level optimal for burning fat and calories.

The more you weigh, the more you will burn. Running will give you a calorie deficit if you do not offset it by overeating.

Besides running regularly, embracing a balanced diet and adopting healthy eating habits are key for long-term weight management.

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Call it the king of cardio

Many studies have shown that running can significantly reduce a person's risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

According to a study published by the American College of Cardiology, runners have a 30 per cent lower risk of death from all causes and a 45 per cent lower risk of mortality from heart disease or stroke, compared with those who do not run.

Runners also live three years longer on average, regardless of the distance, duration or frequency that they run.

It is good for bones and joints

According to Mr Gino Ng, a physiotherapist from Sports Solutions, numerous studies found no evidence that runners were more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis compared with non-runners.

In fact, he said the weight loss and strengthening of articular cartilage from running will help in preventing knee problems.

However, he added that most runners injure themselves when they try to run too much, too soon.

He has seen many new runners sustain injuries in their first year, with heel and knee pain as the more common complaints.

Like with any sport, it is normal to experience muscle aches when you start out.

If you feel sharp pains, particularly in the joints or ligaments, visit a physiotherapist to determine if there are any muscle imbalances or postural alignments to be corrected.

Do not try to outrun pain as you can cause damage to your muscles or joints.

Running boosts your immune system and well-being

Running regularly is a good way to give your immune system a boost as it helps to circulate protective cells in the body faster to attack and eliminate bacteria and viruses.

While light and moderate running boosts the immune system, fast and furious running to exhaustion has the opposite effect and weakens the immune system, as the body produces high levels of the stress hormone called cortisol.

When you run, your body produces endorphins, which act as a painkiller like morphine, and endocannabinoids - which act as a feel-good drug like cannabis.

Both work together to let you run longer and farther, and to achieve the euphoric feeling known as "runner's high".

Many studies have shown that running regularly can improve your mood and self- esteem, and lower rates of depression.

This article was first published in Her World Online (www. HerWorld. com)