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Article: What are the benefits of running?

Quels sont les bienfaits de la course à pied ?

What are the benefits of running?

If you're already a regular runner or hiker, this article should only strengthen your motivation to continue running or hiking regularly. If you don't run or hike regularly, read this article and I hope it will convince you to start, even on a small scale.

If we had to sum up why regular physical activity such as running or hiking is beneficial on short and long term (in fact, throughout life), it's because our genetics allow us to adapt to a multitude of situations except for one: a sedentary lifestyle coupled with a poor diet. And in our modern, urban societies, it's easy to start eating 'too much and the wrong type of food' and not getting regular physical activity. Over time, this type of lifestyle will lead our bodies not to adapt but, on the contrary, to gradually deteriorate, particularly in terms of muscle and cardiovascular health. It's a vicious circle that sets in, with potentially very serious long-term consequences in terms of physical and mental health.

Conversely, starting and maintaining a regular physical activity such as running or hiking is the starting point of a virtuous circle of adaptation for our body and mind, which brings many benefits daily and over time.

Below is a description of the greatest benefits of running, first at a physiological level and then at a psychological level. We have listed what we see as the four main physical and mental benefits:

The physiological benefits of running

- Muscle and bone strengthening: running involves a lot of muscles, particularly in the legs, hips, trunk and shoulders. During a run the sustained level of effort leads to micro-tears in the muscles, which then start to repair and strengthen. At the same time, the mechanical stress that running imposes on the bones of the legs and spine will also lead to microtrauma in the bones. And the body's natural response to the repetition of these impacts will be to gradually densify the bones.

 - Improving the cardiovascular system: by stimulating the heart, running helps to strengthen it and make it more efficient. It will gradually pump more blood with less effort. This often results in a lower resting heart rate. Running also improves blood circulation. And to complete the circle, a healthy cardiovascular system will also speed up recovery.

- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight: running requires and consumes energy. It 'burns' calories and the level of energy expended will depend on the intensity, duration and frequency of the sessions. Running also helps to increase metabolism, or the number of calories 'burned' at rest. Of course, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight will also depend on the other side of the calorie equation, i.e. maintaining a balanced, healthy diet.

- Boosting the immune system: regular running has anti-inflammatory effects. It also facilitates the circulation of immune cells, whose role is to detect and eliminate pathogens. However, beware of ultra-format races or long-distance triathlons, as the extreme effort required can temporarily weaken the immune system and open up a window of vulnerability lasting from several hours to several days (during which the watchwords will be protection, recovery, relaxation, nutrition, hydration, etc.). 

The psychological benefits of running

- Better mental health and greater self-confidence: by stimulating the production of endorphins, running creates an almost immediate feeling of well-being. Over time, the discipline and resilience that regular practice requires, the achievement of goals whatever your level after months of training, concentration on the present moment while running, maintaining a healthy weight and the feeling of belonging to a community are all positive psychological dimensions that promote the development of better mental health and greater self-confidence.

- Reducing stress levels: running is often a mental break, an escape from the problems of everyday life or just a moment of reflection. It's also an excellent breathing exercise, and generates endorphins, the feel-good and anti-stress hormones.

- Therapeutic effects of connecting with nature: it has been shown that contact with nature (which you can get by running in the countryside, in a forest, in the mountains or even in a park) is associated with a drop in levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and therefore has a calming effect. Exposure to natural light also has a beneficial effect on our mood and general well-being.

- Stimulation of cognitive functions: by increasing the heart rate and therefore blood flow, running contributes to better irrigation of the brain (better oxygenation and better supply of nutrients to brain cells). The positive mental state that regular running can induce is also conducive to better concentration and greater clarity of thought.

The list of physical and mental benefits of running or walking is truly impressive.

Our blog is normally entitled 'I run, therefore I am'. Just for this article, it should be renamed: 'I run, therefore I am doing well'. And there's no need to hesitate any longer: in this Olympic year, let's all start running or hiking!

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