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How healthy is running, really?

With all the outdated research about running and health out there, many Georgians wonder whether the benefits of running truly outweigh the potential dangers. Before you go hanging up your running shoes, take a look at some of the latest research that suggests running may actually offer huge benefits to overall physical and mental health.

The benefits

  • Improved self image.
    Unfortunately, many Georgians have a negative body image, but running just might help you feel better about the way you look. In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who took part in running and other vigorous exercise showed a marked improvement in self-esteem, perceived body attractiveness and athletic competency.
  • Improved cardiovascular health.
    You don't have to get into a full blown sprint or run a marathon to improve your heart health. In fact, even gentle running can offer significant cardiovascular improvement, and the Copenhagen City Heart Study suggests that running as little as 2.5 hours per week can delivery a powerful cardio-health punch. So, don't feel like you need to run full force -- even starting out at a slower pace can help you increase your cardiovascular endurance over time.
  • Better mental health.
    Running might just help you experience improved mental health, according to a study published in Preventative Medicine. The study suggests that exercising between 2.5 and 7.5 hours per week offer the greatest mental health benefits, and other publications report running and taking part in vigorous exercise could even help improve conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Could slow aging.
    In a study by the Stanford University School of Medicine, over 500 runners ages 50 and up were followed for more than 20 years to find out if running had an impact on longevity and wellness. The results -- the runners experience fewer age-related disabilities, lived an much more active lifestyle and had half the risk of early death as compared to non-runners. Since running regularly can improve overall muscle tone and strength, long term benefits could mean a greater quality of life down the road.

The dangers

  • Running in the cold.
    You may think that you are doing yourself a favor by running even when it's cold outside, but you might want to take a running break on low temperature days. Not only does cold weather increase the risk of cramping, injury and dehydration, but many experts also warn that the cold could damage the immune system and cause long-term damage to the muscles.
  • Running in the mud.
    With the growing popularity of mud runs in Georgia, it's good to keep in mind that certain dangers exist when running in mud or muddy water. Since mud creates a slippery surface and can make traction difficult, mud running increases the risk of injuries like broken bones, sprains and strains. Worse yet, mud running could also expose runners to E. coli and other contamination.

Looking for a great pair of running shoes in Atlanta? Running with the right gear can help you get the most benefit from your exercise and can help you prevent injury from training. Check out these local running stores to improve your stride and keep your feet healthy.