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5 reasons running is good for your health

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Here are our top five health benefits of going for a run.

1. It's good for your heart

According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, running for just five minutes per day at a slow speed - think a 12-minute mile - could drastically reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The study examined the link between running and mortality in more than 55,000 people aged 18-100 (with an average age of 44), over 15 years. It found that runners had a 30 - 45 per cent lower risk of dying than non-runners.

This isn't surprising, says exercise physiologist Greg Justice: "every time you run, you decrease your resting heart rate, so your heart doesn't need to work as hard".

2. It's good for your joints

While running with creaky knee or hip sounds like it might do more harm than good, research has shown that regular runs can help improve joint strength and reduce the risk of bone conditions. A study of almost 100,000 runners, published by Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, found that even those who regularly took part in marathons significantly reduced their risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. In fact, runners were found to half their risk compared to non-runners and walkers.

"Every time your feet hit the pavement, you stress your bones and cartilage, just like your muscles, causing them to spring back stronger", explains Janet Hamilton, CSCS, exercise physiologist. "Low-impact exercises like walking, or even spinning or swimming, don't have that same bone-building benefit.

3. It helps you lose weight

We all know that exercise burns calories, but when it comes to running, did you know that this calorie burn carries on, even after you stop? 'After burn' or 'EPOC' happens post-run when you're exercising at an intensity that's a little faster than your easy pace, but a little slower than marathon pace.

Running requires a lot of fuel, with the average person burning about 12 calories per minute on flat terrain, and even more in windy, hilly areas which require effort and burn more calories.

4. It's great for your mental health

In a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers found that just 30 minutes of exercise could instantly lift the mood of someone suffering from mental health issues including anxiety and depression.

Moreover, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health revealed that that same 30 minutes of running boosted sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day. "Many runners find that the time alone allows them to think and problem solve," explains Hamilton. "Taking a run-break from a stressful project can help you return feeling refreshed and insightful."

5. Anyone can do it!

Old or young, male or female, fit or not, anyone can take part and you can set your own pace. Running doesn't require any special equipment, just a pair of trainers - though you may want to invest in specialist running gear if you get bitten by the bug. Plus, you can do it anywhere. No need to fork out for a gym membership or treadmill of your own, just head down to your local park, beach or boulevard and go, go, go!

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