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What Exactly Happens To Your Body When You Run Daily?

There are several compelling reasons why people turn to run for exercise every day: you don't need a lot of gear, you burn a ton of calories

What Exactly Happens To Your Body When You Run Daily?

There are several compelling reasons why people turn to run for exercise every day: you don't need a lot of gear, you burn a ton of calories and you get the beneficial benefits of being in nature (if you're running outdoors). "Running is a full-body aerobic, weight-bearing exercise so the benefits are massive," says Andrew Slane, Precision Run's running coach, and Variis' Equinox community fitness instructor.

"You'll see better cardiovascular and respiratory efficiency, strengthening of all your leg muscles, as well as your heart, back and neck, and greater bone density. It's also one of the best calorie-burning aerobic exercises you can do."

But can that high-impact sport take a toll on your body too much? If you're turning up the treadmill or hitting the running ground, this is exactly what happens to your body every single day when you go for a run.

The Muscle Of The Lower Body Grows Stronger

Each day running improves physical fitness and strengthens muscles in the lower body. That's because those muscles are fired up by the very act of running to generate big strength mile after mile.

It takes a lot of muscles to make running possible, says Tony Ambler-Wright, a certified personal trainer, master coach, and a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) at the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

You are already acquainted with a lot of them, including the calves, quads, and glutes, all of which "ensure the lower extremity and remain correctly aligned with the pelvis," says Ambler-Wright. They help the body "effectively absorb force and store elastic energy that eventually converts into the higher output of kinetic energy/power."

Rachel Tavel, PT, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist at Shift Wellness in New York City, says the muscles that make up the calves (the gastrocnemius and soleus) are responsible for raising the heel and moving you forward.

Yet other muscles that you may not have given much thought to before — including your lower leg's anterior and posterior tibialis, which help stabilize and decelerate foot strike — are also tested and strengthened by daily running practice.

Although running does train the lower-body muscles, it will ultimately come from strength training to boost their overall strength and power. Try hitting the weight room on alternating days instead of running every day to avoid muscle imbalances and ensure each move is smooth and effective.

Many running experts advise running no more than four days a week. Anything then that, and all the constant stress on those lower-body muscles will take a toll.

Your Back and Core Gets More Stable

Your core muscles also have an important part to play in running. These not only "move energy from and to the lower and upper extremities but also lead to the movement of the pelvic and trunk," says Ambler-Wright. The rotation is important for moving effectively and efficiently from one position to the next, he adds.

Most precisely, your back — your lats — also act to generate strength in your moves. These large, fan-shaped muscles are the only muscles in the upper body that binds to both the spine and the pelvis.

"During the gait process the lat works in concert with the opposite glute to absorb and generate energy," says Ambler-Wright. This movement of tag-teaming provides a stabilizing force across the lower back and pelvis.

"This is demonstrated by the arms and legs shifting while running in complex opposition to each other. The faster one runs, the more important the connection is between arm swing and movement," says Ambler-Wright.

Take a break from your daily runs to get in some upper-body exercises, to help boost your lat ability. Be sure to always practice at the ends of your runs in certain core exercises, or do them on your training days for lower and upper-body strength.

What Exactly Happens To Your Body When You Run Daily?

Your Breathing Would Be More Efficient

Running every day will help you learn how to more effectively economize your breath over various distances.

It all comes from how you use the diaphragm, the main breathing-controlled muscle it sits between the chest and the abs and is a large core stabilizer. Lesser surrounding muscles are pushed to function harder when you're not breathing properly.

"If diaphragm breathing is altered or reduced, the secondary respiratory muscles such as the scalenes (breathing muscle in the neck), sternocleidomastoid (muscle of the neck), pec minor (muscle of the chest), levator scapulae (muscle of the upper back) and upper trapezius (muscle of the upper back) may be more heavily relied on, leading to shallower, more chest oriented breathing," explains Ambler-Wright.

"This can lead to altered arm, shoulder, neck and head alignment over time, leading to discomfort due to overuse of those muscles," he says.

Taking the time to do exercises that reinforce the diaphragm and abs may help to train these muscles to and up your oxygen levels while running.

Many running experts advise running no more than four days a week.

Your Performance Might Plateau

Running gets a little easier the more often you do it, and by running regularly you'll actually be able to build up in the distance. But just like any kind of exercise, every day running the same distance and speed will lead to a plateau where you can't change your pace or increasing your mileage.

When you're running every day, your slow-twitch muscle fibers are more likely to be used and you're not exercising your fast-twitch muscle fibers enough which is where strength and speed can come from. According to the NASM, slow-twitch muscle fibers are responsible for physical exercises, such as running long distances, while fast-twitch muscle fibers are recruited for performing rapid activities, such as heavy lifts and sprinting.

In the end, what would make you a better and quicker runner adds some strength training to your routine (sensing a pattern here yet?). By adding some hard lifts into your workout, you will be hiring those fast-twitch muscle fibers that can motivate you to increase speed.

Since your quads, hamstrings, glutes, inner- and outer thigh muscles and heart are the key movers in running, you'll want to concentrate on reinforcing those, says Jonathan Cane, an exercise physiologist, running coach and Triathlon Anatomy co-author. Conduct movements such as squats, knees, deadlifts, and glute bridges to help you run faster and drive over steep slopes.

It May Improve Your Balance

"Running is a sport with one-legs," says Tavel. "You jump and fall on one leg at a time," all while holding your balance.

According to a January 2015 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, some research suggests that running every day will help improve your health. You consciously use your heart, back and leg muscles to balance while running. And, as described earlier, you activate your lower-leg muscles to regulate foot strike, which is necessary to maintain balance.

But strengthening these areas by resistance training is what will help boost the endurance and fix any muscle imbalances. Do you have uneven hips while running? That one side of your glutes is weaker than the other may be a warning. Common running types of errors and certain muscle imbalances will set you up for overuse injuries.

"The glutes are the key muscles that link the lower extremity to the pelvis, so this relation needs to be powerful to help stabilize with each phase unilaterally," Tavel says. "Due to instability and poor body mechanics during the gait process, if the glutes are heavy, you may be more vulnerable to injury."

The good news is that unilateral, or one-sided, exercises will help you further improve your balance — and make you a better runner. Apply unilateral exercises such as single-leg deadlifts, split squats, and single-leg glute bridges to your training routine on your training days off.

How To Run With A Good Form?

  1. Run big. Think about getting a helium balloon softly dragging you up in the middle of the top of your head.
  2. Relax your back and your hands and your neck. Keep your heart focused and firm — not too tight, but adequate to prevent you from flailing.
  3. Don't let your hands cross the midline. Too much twisting of your upper body will cause your feet to cross your midline which can cause mechanical problems and waste energy.
  4. Seek to gently place your foot under your center of gravity. Landing too far in front of your center of gravity will result in both increased injury risk and reduced speed.

You Might Get Injured

While the muscles and cardiorespiratory system should adapt to a new running routine relatively quickly, it takes a lot longer for the tendons, ligaments and connective tissues to adapt to that tension, Ambler-Wright says. And that means you could risk injury if you increasing your mileage every day or do not do a proper warm-up before running.

And, "if a joint was previously damaged and there was some degeneration, running every day could potentially speed up or intensify the injury," he says.

If you are running with poor mechanics and/or altered alignment, adding stress on the soft tissues and joints in your lower back, pelvis, and legs can result. It can result in increased wear and tear and potential injury, particularly if you are running every day.

"When running only, the body's tissues are strained in the same way over and over again by the same ranges of motion," says Ambler-Wright.

Common Running Injuries Which Are Too often

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the most common overuse injuries linked to running include:

  1. Achilles tendonitis: tendon inflammation which connects your calf muscles to the heel bone
  2. Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fascia pain, the band of connective tissue that connects the heel and forefoot
  3. Shin splints: muscle or tendon pain or swelling around the tibia or shin bone
  4. Iliotibial band syndrome: iliotibial band tightness and swelling, a thick band of tissues running on the outside of your thigh, from hip to knee.
  5. Patellofemoral pain syndrome: cartilage irritation under the kneecap or underlying tendon strain, also called runner's knee.

That's why it's important to make sure you take days off to prepare for running so your body can cope with the stress of running. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), concentrate on rehabilitation and strength exercises as well as recovery techniques, such as foam rolling, sleep, and nutrition, to help prevent injury.

The recovery schedule will also involve after-run cooling down with stretches, and proper refueling. Goal to have a snack with a carb-to-protein ratio of 3:1 to 4:1 within 20 minutes of completing a run to help speed recovery.

"This time, the body simply needs to heal damaged tissue, get stronger, and have the strength required for longer workouts," says Cane. And the quicker you heal, and more fully, the earlier you can return to successful running, he says.

Cross-training — or integrating various other forms of exercises than running into the routine — can also help avoid injury. Activities like cycling and swimming perform well as they "keep the physical systems in good condition when doing aerobic non-weight bearing exercise," says Michele Olson, CSCS, a senior sports science clinical professor at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama.

You may also want to dabble in some yoga, which is a perfect way to strengthen and stretch the runners.

Your Heart Will Pump More Powerfully

Your Heart Will Pump More Powerfully

For a reason, people refer to running as cardio: it increases the cardiovascular system's strength and performance. Indeed, a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in September 2019 shows that running high-intensity bursts can increase maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max) almost as much as practical HIIT exercises like burpees. The higher the VO2 max, the more oxygen the body can consume and transfer to the muscles.

So while you may think you have to go tough at all times to really enjoy this reward, it's just not true. Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in August 2014 showed that running at moderate speeds of only five to 10 minutes a day will minimize the risk of death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease.

Sure, cycles make the ticker work faster and can be a bigger trigger for weight loss, but for longer-lasting, lower-intensity exercise, Ambler-Wright notes, there is something to say too. Running longer distances makes it easy to keep the pace while traveling the distance, and experts advise you to vary the intensity and length of your runs throughout the week.

Experts suggest expanding by just 10 percent every other week when you're able to work longer. And if you usually run three days a week for 30 minutes, on one of those days you can stretch the run to 33 minutes.

Feeling certain tiredness from your daily runs? Do not be afraid of taking a break and doing other forms of cardio, such as biking, swimming, and dancing. Such exercises will help you stay fit when you are working your muscles and preparing your joints in various ways.

You May Lose Weight

Olson does not recommend that people who are overweight (those with a BMI of 25 to 30) or who are obese (those with a BMI of 30 or higher) start running for weight loss as the effect is more noticeable and can cause damage to the joints' soft tissue.

Even if you have got the all-clear from a health care provider to continue and run for weight loss, expect lots of calories and burn. The number you burn will vary depending on factors such as your workout intensity and your age and size, but a 155-pound person running 12 minutes per mile can burn as many as 298 calories after just 30 minutes, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Although you would still need to change your diet, burning calories with exercise like running — which works for several muscle groups at once, leading to high-calorie burning — will definitely aid you on a weight-loss journey.

On the other hand, a few beginners find over time that they gain weight from beginning a new running routine. This may be due to the growth of the muscle which compensates for lost body fat.

Also, because running is so exhausting the muscles and joints, it's best not to do it every day. If you find yourself suffering a running injury, your efforts to lose weight could be derailed. Alternatively, add to your routine some variety: strength training will help develop lean muscle mass and lower overall body fat.

The Bottom Line On Daily Running

Running four to five days a week would be the norm for most people, giving you plenty of time for cross-training, strength training, and rest.

Your skill level will determine how much you want to ride. "Most runners can run five, six, or even seven days a week with experience but I wouldn't suggest more early than any other day," says Cane.

"I have no opposition to running every day for experienced athletes with strong mechanics who are fairly injury-free, but for most, I would probably prefer to complement their running with some aerobic cycling or swimming or other lower-impact sport," he says. He explains that seasoned runners have made the requisite muscle changes and are better able to handle more distance, whether it's total miles or frequency.

When you run every day, then your workout routine becomes even more important. "Everyday running can be healthy, provided the running program is organized at the correct intensities and duration, which must take into account the training goals and health history of the athlete," says Ambler-Wright.

"Most days you can run but you must alternate distance and pace," adds Olson. "Some days should be slower, but maybe longer runs; some days may be faster but shorter; some days may be on softer terrain, such as grass or bike paths." Changing the terrain and running intensities may help to reduce the repetitive pressure on your joints.

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YourFitnessRink - Fitness and Health Matters: What Exactly Happens To Your Body When You Run Daily?
What Exactly Happens To Your Body When You Run Daily?
There are several compelling reasons why people turn to run for exercise every day: you don't need a lot of gear, you burn a ton of calories
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