Just Five Minutes a Day


Healthy Living - February 23, 2016
JP Stowe, ATC

It’s getting to that time of year when treadmills get stored away and running in the mud becomes “cool”. The race season is approaching fast, and training for that marathon, 10K, or 5K start to ramp up as you move outside. To some, the thought of running is a painful chore, exhausting, and tedious and should be avoided unless you are trying to lose weight. They couldn’t be more wrong. The health benefits that running has on the human body is powerful. From improved brain cognition, to a better mood and cardiovascular conditioning, it’s hard to argue with the all-around benefits it actually has, even if you do it for just five minutes a day.

1. Better Brain Performance
Exercise is able to raise heart rate and increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood in the body, including the brain. A 2013 study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found shorter term aerobic exercise like running, improves brain, cognition, and cardiovascular fitness in healthy aging adults. Sedentary adults who exercise regularly can lead to an increase in brain blood flow to the hippocampus — the key brain region that is affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Another recent study in the journal Neurology found that poor cardiovascular fitness in middle age is associated with having a smaller brain 20 years later. This is directly associated with cognitive decline and an increased risk for dementia.

2. A Better Mood- The Runner’s High is Real
Whether you’re having a bad day or you’re in a good mood, running will boost your spirits and make you feel positive. Runners actually have attested to the alleged “runner’s high,” which is the feeling people get after they’ve finished a good job or run. Intense endurance activity is suspected to lead to an increase in endocannabinoids – the brain chemicals that signal pleasure, according to a 2012 study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology. The “neurobiological rewards” theory of the runner’s high could also imply we as humans have evolved to enjoy running.

3. Better Sleep
Going on a daily morning run can become your sleeping aid for getting a good night’s sleep. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found those who run regularly in the mornings showed an improvement in objective sleep. Subjective sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day improved, whereas sleepiness during the day decreased. Moreover, exercise can reduce sleeping problems by decreasing arousal, anxiety, and depression.

4. Running Strengthens Your Bones and Joints
A Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study of nearly 100,000 runners and walkers found that running doesn't up the risk of osteoarthritis—even people who cover 26.2 miles on the regular. In fact, the study showed runners were half as likely to suffer from knee osteoarthritis compared with walkers. Every time you pound the pavement, you stress your bones and cartilage, just like your muscles, causing them to spring back even stronger. Low-impact exercises like walking, or even spinning or swimming, don't have that same bone-building benefits of running.

5. Reduces Cardiovascular Disease (and high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes!)
Running for 5 minutes every day can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by almost half. People who run regularly have a 30 percent lower risk of death from all causes, and a whopping 45 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Weekly running, even 5 to 10 minutes a day and at slow speeds less than 6 miles per hour, will suffice to reduce the risk of mortality, compared with not running.

6. Increases Lifespan By Three Years
Running does not only reduce the odds of cardiovascular disease, it can add years to your lifespan — specifically three. People who exercise regularly are found to live an average of three years longer than their sedentary counterparts. Adding years to your life is as simple as doing a 15-minute walk or a 5-minute run. The substantial benefits can mean a difference between life and death for sedentary individuals.

Grab a friend and get started! Five minutes a day is all you need for better health. Who knows, maybe you’ll get hooked and we’ll see you in a marathon next year!