We’ll tell you time and time again how running is one of the best cardio workouts one can do, check out Top Reasons Why Running is Good For You or these Top Ten Benefits of Running if you’re still unsure. Yet running is not only good for your body and those weight loss resolutions, but running is good for the mind as well. In fact all regular exercise routines are.
In fact according to an article titled Exercise for Physical and Emotional Health, regular exercise decreases your chances of Alzheimer’s by 45%, encourages the growth of neurons in the brain which are crucial for brain function, and improves your mood with that “runner’s high” feeling.
Yet what exactly is going on in your body while you run to cause all of these while also burning calories and improving your heart health?! Women’s Health Magazine explains just that in an article titled Your Body On…A 30-Minute Run. I’ve summarized parts I find to be the most interesting below, but be sure to check out the link for the full article and detailed descriptions.
In the first few seconds “your muscles start using adenosine triphosphate (ATP).” ATP is an energy molecule that your body makes from the food you eat. That initial burst of energy you feel is when ATP is starting to convert into adenosine diphosphate (ADP). ADP is another molecule that helps play a critical role in supplying energy. Your muscle cells are “expert recyclers” and will then turn ADP back into ATP after this initial surge.
In the first 90 seconds your cells begin to break down glycogen, “a form of glucose fuel stored in your muscles”, to make more ATP. “Cells also pull glucose directly from your blood (one reason exercise is helpful in fending off high blood sugar). Your body gobbles more glucose, and your muscles release lactic acid – also known as the burn in the age-old workout mantra ‘feel the burn’ – which signals the brain that you’re under physical stress.”
In the next few minutes your heart starts beating faster and begins directing blood away from bodily functions you don’t necessarily need at the moment, such as digestion, and moving the blood toward to your muscles to help power your run. Muscles such as your gluteus maximus, your leg muscles, and your core are all being powered to help keep you upright and control you gait. These muscle cells are also hit with an influx of oxygen in order to make the best use of glucose, this is where that heavy breathing comes in to get more oxygen to these muscle cells. “All this burning of glycogen and oxygen raises your body temperature. To cool you down, your circulatory system diverts blood flow to your skin, lending you a healthy flush. Your sweat glands start releasing moisture to keep you from overheating.” In order for your body to do all of this requires extra energy, meaning extra calories, this is where you begin to torch all those calories, some even fat calories that have been stored in those muscle cells.
Within 10 minutes the ATP supply to your muscles should be sufficient and your body is efficiently transport oxygen while burning fat and glucose, if you are in decent shape that is. If you’ve been slacking on exercise, “your ATP supply can’t keep up with the demand. You can’t suck in or process oxygen fast enough, and lactic acid starts to flood your body.
After 30 minutes besides the excitement you feel because it is over, your energy demands fall yet you will also feel energized because your brain triggered a rush of dopamine, a mood-elevating hormone, to be released. This release of dopamine is what many call the “runner’s high” feeling many get after a good run.