Today is National Running Day. Running is one of the most popular fitness activities in the United States, so it is no surprise that it has its own day. Well, to be honest, so does Chocolate Chip Waffles and Shotglass Collectors, so the day itself isn’t what’s noteworthy, but the popularity of running certainly is.

But this wasn’t always the case. While running has always been an intrinsic part of some sports–soccer, lacrosse, and football, for example–it was rarely something that was done on its own simply for the joy of running. In fact, before James Fixx published his landmark book, The Complete Book of Running, a best-seller that almost single handedly changed the culture of fitness in America, Americans didn’t find a lot of joy in running. They ran if they were involved in a sport or, possibly, while being chased. Running was a means to an end, or the result of some external stimulus.

Fixx put the idea into the American mind, but Nike put the clothes on the American body. Nike made running cool. And Nike quintessentially American. The company started in a kitchen, and the first rubbery soles were molded on the founder’s wife’s waffle iron. We love that kind of thing! Inspired by a book that told us that running was fun, wearing shoes and clothes that make it look fun, and chanting a tagline turned mantra that implored us to “Just Do It,” Americans have been running up a storm for about half a century.

For many people, running creates a euphoric feeling of well-being, the famed “runner’s high.” For the rest of us, it is not so euphoric. Nevertheless, according to Runners World, running makes you happier. In fact, National Instutes for Health research has shown that running actually helps elevate the mood of persons suffering even from deep clinical depression.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” said Carl, my neighbor, who runs regularly. “I have never had a runner’s high. I’ve never really loved running. Mostly, I sweat a lot and can’t wait to get done with my run.” Yet Carl, dressed in a Nike shirt, Adidas shorts, and wearing an Under Armour cap, runs at least every other day. Carl took up running to lose weight and relieve stress. Years later, his body much leaner and his stress level under control, Carl runs to maintain his physical condition.

The idea that running is good for you is an accepted truth in modern America. It strengthens your knees and other joints, and there has been no evidence that running causes knee damage or osteoarthritis. The impact of running actually has been found to improve bone density. Older runners (and people of generally better fitness levels) have been found to be mentally more agile and sharper than non-running older adults. Running helps improve memory, language, and overall accuity. The Journal of Nutrition states that regular exercise (not limited to running, but certainly including it) helps reduce the risk of certain cancers.

While Carl and many thousands of people like him huff and puff in parks, on running trails, and around suburban blocks, they are doing wonders for their bodies. Carl may roll his eyes while talking about his love of running, he’s not stopping any time soon. And there is plenty of solid science that suggests that exercise, including running, is an important part of living the healthiest life possible. So, if you are already a runner or if your physician agrees that running might be a good addition to your healthy lifestyle, then be sure to celebrate National Running Day with a lap around the neighborhood!

Contributing Blog Writer Richard Williamson is HealthLynked’s Vice President of Marketing. He is a not-very-avid runner, a former national class bike racer and speed skater, and two-time lacrosse coach of the year.

References:

https://www.runnersworld.com/beginner/a20847956/6-ways-running-improves-your-health-0/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674785/

https://www.active.com/articles/the-legacy-of-jim-fixx

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