The Health Benefits of Running

Written by Dr.  Joseph Welty

After one year off due to the restrictions placed on us by Covid-19 the Reagan Run 5K, albeit in a new location and with a revised format, is back.  When the day of this event is your favorite day of the year in Dixon, as I have alluded to in previous year’s articles on this race, a sense of excitement and anticipation is mounting.  Many of us kept the spirit of the event alive last year by running the course in smaller groups of people in our Covid bubbles.  Now, as restrictions begin to be lifted, this year’s race will be a step back toward the first weekend in July tradition that so many of us look forward to and use as a motivator to keep our running and exercise routines moving forward.

Our bodies were made to move and be active. The benefits of keeping our bodies moving are numerous and well documented in one medical study after another.  These include positive impacts on our cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, respiratory, endocrine, neurological, and immune systems.

The lowering of blood pressure and heart rate along with improve pumping efficiency of the heart lower our risk for events like stroke and heart attack with an additional boost to the cardiovascular system from the lowering of cholesterol that exercise provides.  We can all agree that improvement in our respiratory and immune systems is critical in this time of a pandemic respiratory virus.

Our musculoskeletal system is the recipient of multiple positive impacts when we walk and run for exercise.  These include enhanced joint health, improved bone density which is provided by weight bearing exercise, and improved balance and functional capacity which is essentially our ability to get up and perform our everyday activities.  This last one is particularly important as we age.

The benefits to our brain health have come to the forefront over the last 15 months as we have endured many stresses in our lives.  The clarity of thought and the reduction in anxiety and depression that regular movement of our bodies provides is real, and many have used running as an assistant in coping with the last year’s challenges. Personally I use my runs as a time to organize my thoughts for the day to come and as a chance for undistracted reflection and prayer.

Diabetes continues to be one of the fastest growing disease states.  Walking and running can assist in better control of blood sugar levels while also assisting in weight management which is at the core of this illness.

While all of the abovementioned benefits to our health are great reasons to join us on July 3 the best may be the camaraderie you will feel from your fellow participants.  The positive energy is palpable and uplifting.

I so look forward to seeing many of you this year as we carry on this great community tradition of being active while financially supporting our much needed community programs.  By the way do not forget to thank the many volunteers who have worked especially hard this year to make this special day a reality.