Have plans to sweat it out in your running shoes this evening? If you’re a fan of running, here are some interesting facts why you should keep this cardio habit up:

1) A Dose of Happiness for Survival

Running enthusiasts may be familiar with the “runner’s high” phenomenon - a state of euphoria from the release of endorphins, the feel good hormone. Researchers suggest that the phenomenon may trace back to the evolution in mammals – particularly humans – to maximize food acquisition. When there is scarcity of food, the satiety-regulating hormone – leptin – triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter for motivation. This, in turn, signals the body to engage in reward-seeking behavior, and increases motivation for humans to get active and find food.

2) Barefoot Running: Not For Everyone

Barefoot running has in recent years garnered much popularity, with manufacturers muscling in on the trend to offer minimalist shoes that resembles bare feet. It is thought that barefoot running minimizes the risk of injury by encouraging forefoot rather than landing on one’s heel. The evidence for this is conflicting. Opponents suggest that barefoot running may be hazardous to certain age groups. Older runners who are accustomed to wearing conventional running shoes may also not be able to adapt to barefoot running and forefoot landing as quickly as young runners. This exposes them to higher risk of injury during the transition to minimalist running shoes. Other researchers suggest that the subject is a matter of preference depending on strike pattern, running surface and speed.

3) Running and Knee OA

Contrary to popular belief, regular running does not lead to knee osteoarthritis (OA), a condition characterized by the progressive damage of joint cartilage. A study by the American College of Rheumatology demonstrates that runners without pre-existing OA, typically have lower prevalence of pain, radiographic OA and symptomatic OA compared to non-runners. Besides, regular runners generally have lower body mass index (BMI), a protective factor against knee OA.

4) Running for Brain Health

Running exercises not only the body, but also serves as a workout for the brain. Aerobic activities in young adults have been shown to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, which in turn, preserves cognitive skills and reduces the risk of developing dementia in middle age. Cardio fitness activities also generate neurons in the hippocampus, which is essential for learning.

5) Sprint vs Marathon

Sprint and marathon are two distinct forms of running requiring different skills and physical requirements. Sprinters train to bulk up their Type II muscle fibres – the fast twitch muscles. These muscles develop great force and have high contraction speed, but they also fatigue quickly. Runners training for a marathon on the other hand need to build the slow twitch Type I muscle fibres that maintain longer contraction. Distant runners are hence, lean for one important reason - extra muscle weight consumes energy and may cause premature fatigue. MIMS

1. Miriam S. Nokia, Sanna Lensu, Juha P. Ahtiainen, Petra P. Johansson, Lauren G. Koch, Steven L. Britton, Heikki Kainulainen. Physical exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in male rats provided it is aerobic and sustained. The Journal of Physiology, 2016;
2. N. Zhu, D. R. Jacobs, P. J. Schreiner, K. Yaffe, N. Bryan, L. J. Launer, R. A. Whitmer, S. Sidney, E. Demerath, W. Thomas, C. Bouchard, K. He, J. Reis, B. Sternfeld. Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: The CARDIA Study. Neurology, 2014
3. American College of Rheumatology (ACR). "Running does not lead to knee osteoarthritis, may protect people from developing disease, experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 November 2014
4. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "Running barefoot may increase injury risk in older, more experienced athletes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 March 2015
5. Fulton et al. Leptin suppresses the rewarding effects of running via STAT3 signaling in dopamine neurons. Cell Metabolism, September 201

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