Running ward off the ills of Aging
Running is a vigorous aerobic activity: It gets the heart and lungs pumping, which is crucial for cardiovascular health at any age and especially in our older years, when the risk for chronic disease increases. “Aerobic activity causes the blood vessels to relax and in doing so helps to keep blood vessels elastic and helps prevent high blood pressure,” says Dr. Daniel Munoz, medical director of the cardiovascular ICU at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Even more benefits: Aerobic exercise helps you control your weight, build muscle strength, reduce body fat, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, build endurance, stave off depression and stress, increase energy and self-esteem, improve sleep and live longer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The aerobic activity of running is also good for brain health, as it sends more blood flow to the brain and keeps the blood vessels healthy. Running may also help to challenge your brain, which may help preserve cognition. “There are areas of the brain that are critical to carrying out the motor activity of running, to navigate where you’re going and monitor fatigue. So it has to be beneficial to overall brain health,” says Dr. David Charles, chief medical officer of the Vanderbilt Neuroscience Institute
Weight-bearing exercise like running is key to maintaining bone health. Bones are living tissue, and placing force on them stimulates new cell growth. “Bone responds to force in a positive way,” Ortega says. “It helps you improve or maintain your bone mineral density so you don’t lose it as fast, and it helps you build bone
A 2017 study suggested that running just one or two minutes per day was associated with better bone health in both pre- and postmenopausal women.
Munoz advises that before starting a running program, you should consult a doctor if you have chronic disease, including heart disease or osteoarthritis, or if you have any concerning symptoms. “Any chest symptoms brought on by exertion should prompt medical evaluation. Warning signs include chest discomfort or shortness of breath that occurs with activity,” Munoz says. Those symptoms should be checked out by a doctor if they develop for any reason, even if you’ve already been exercising for a long time.