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Texas Runners Find Many Benefits From The Activity

Sep 4, 2007
Why do runners run?

For those who haven't taken up the activity, the question may seem to be imponderable, given the pain, boredom and exhausting nature that seem to be part and parcel of the activity.

The fact is, people living in Dallas, Houston and Austin, and throughout Texas, run for a variety of reasons, including simply to stay in shape and/or to maintain what they consider an ideal body weight.

Experts say that a combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight, as it triggers a loss of body fat and an increase in the amount of lean tissue. Running can help a person burn an average of 100 calories per each mile while other popular activities, such as biking and walking, burn a fraction of those calories in the same amount of time. While the average human being may burn about 2,000-2,500 calories a day without exercise, they'll burn an estimated 500 calories more through running.

Another reason for running is the accessibility of the activity. With a good pair of shoes, most people can run just about anywhere.

How fast does a runner need to run to benefit from the activity? Surprisingly, speed has little effect on the number of calories being burned. The most important factor, experts say, is weight. A 220-pound person running an eight-minute mile will burn 150 calories, while a 120-pound person running at the same pace burns only 82. As a runner's weight goes down, they'll burn fewer calories per mile, eventually stabilizing.

Most runners will lose weight quickly at first, but eventually, their weight stops declining and reaches a plateau. At this point, some serious runners will intensify the workouts but recreational runners can maintain their lower body weight by continuing to run consistently.

Health benefits are another motivation for runners. Running is said to help lower blood pressure by maintaining the elasticity of the arteries, expanding and contracting more than usual. Most serious runners have unusually low blood pressure. Running also helps maximize the potential of the lungs, as it keeps them strong and powerful. While deep breaths force the lungs to use more tissue, the 50% of normally unused lung potential is utilized.

Even smokers are said to sometimes recover full lung potential through running. Finally, running is said to help strengthen the heart and may help prevent heart attacks, the large muscle exercise helping to keep the cardio system efficient and strong. The heart of an inactive person beats an estimated 36,000 more times each day than that of a runner, as running keeps the arteries open and blood flowing smoothly.

Runners also say the intense exhilaration and euphoria that comes after a run is the biggest motivator. The physiological reason for the euphoria is a release of beta-endorphin, which is triggered by neurons in the nervous system. Intended to alleviate the pain after a run, it creates a feeling of extreme happiness and exhilaration. The intense high is said to sometimes replace other addictions, including drugs, alcohol, and even food. Runners claim to achieve more energy in daily life from running, but the activity also helps bring appetite, exercise and food into balance while also improving sleep, eating, and relaxation.

While some say running might increase appetite, exercise actually tends to diminish it, say experts. Runners typically pay close attention to their diets, as a means of maintaining a balanced diet that is low in fat. Carbohydrates are especially important for runners because muscles need the glycogen that comes from carbohydrates in order to produce energy. Fats, on the other hand, should not exceed 25% of a runner's food intake, since muscles do not work well on a fatty diet.
Runners should make sure they drink enough fluids, as these are necessary in allowing blood to transfer glucose to muscles and in flushing out metabolic waste. Insufficient fluids inhibit one's ability to sweat, necessary for a runner to cool down.

Experts say the most important and effective fluid is water, but others recommend sweetened caffeine drinks before a long race such as a marathon. These drinks are said to boost energy and stamina during a run.

Famous runners have been quoted as ingesting unusual substances as part of a training regimen. Frank Shorter, winner of the 1972 and 1976 Olympic marathons, said he had beer, ring dings, and pizza "topped liberally with mayonnaise" prior to the races. Portugal's Carlos Lopes was said to have had a steak two hours before winning the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.

Supplements, sports drinks and smoothies are more common for runners. Most runners are extremely careful about their diets with marathon runners claiming it is important for them to maintain an unusually low body weight in order to run their fastest and reduce the strain on their cartilage, joints, and muscles.

How you treat your body when you're young will certainly affect your health when you get older. Eventually, it will also affect your wallet as well.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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