Running is one of the most accessible and beneficial exercises around. It can fit around the tightest of schedules, and is suitable for people of almost any age, body type, and fitness level. Small wonder, then, that there are now estimated to be more runners on English streets than cyclists. And one more thing – It’s completely free!
But what makes running just so fantastic? What are its benefits and how can it contribute to a life of better health and wellbeing? Well, let’s take a look…
Running is good for the heart
According to a study that looked at over 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100, runners are up to 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than non-runners. That’s a very significant statistic, and an encouraging reason to consider regular running as a way of developing and maintaining a healthy heart.
One of the reasons why running is so good for the heart is that it decreases your resting heart rate. This means that, during day-to-day activities, the heart isn’t working as hard and doesn’t over-exert itself.
It makes you feel good
Ever heard of runner’s high? It’s a sort of euphoric state runners sometimes reach in the throes of a good run. A feeling of exhilaration and flow.
In the words of Jesse Pittsley, PhD, of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists, “Psychologically, runners may experience euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running.”
Talk to any runner about it, and you’ll probably find them nodding along with a happy glaze over their eyes: “Ah yes, I know the feeling. . .”
Although it’s unclear as to precisely what causes runner’s high, a popular theory is that it has something to do with the neurotransmitters (including dopamine and serotonin) secreted whilst running.
And this feel-good factor leads directly into the next point. . . .
It boosts confidence
Aside from the natural, confidence-boosting properties of feeling good about yourself, there are a number of other reasons why running is excellent for self-confidence.
There is of course the physical aspect. Not only can it change the way you look and feel on the outside, but it can have a positive effect on your internal systems as well. So, as an exercise, running can be an excellent promoter of body confidence.
There’s also the goal-oriented aspect of running. Time goals, distance goals, weight goals, and so on. Many people believe that setting and achieving goals contributes towards boosting happiness, and happiness can help us become more confident.
Then there’s the social aspect. Joining a club, making new friends, connecting with likeminded people, and being part of a community. All these factors can contribute to increased feelings of self-esteem and confidence.
Running may reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress
Along with its mood-boosting qualities, running is also thought to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is perhaps best explained through first-hand accounts, of which there are plenty. But as a starting point, and if you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into this particular point, have a look at any or all of these very informative and revealing articles:
One of the most portable pieces of workout gear around is a pair of running shoes. That’s really all you need. And the beauty of running is that you can do it almost anywhere, at anytime, completely for free.
You don’t need to join a gym to run. You don’t even need that much spare time. Even if you only have 20 minutes a day, you can put in a quick run around the block. If you’re close enough, you could even run to work, combining your daily commute with your workout routine.
Running is flexible enough that it can be tailored to multiple fitness goals. Whether you’re aiming for distance, speed, weight loss, or are running for fun, you can work it around your preferences.
Another mark of its flexibility is that running can be performed at whatever social or competitive level you desire. You can run on your own, join a non-competitive club, or get out and race. The choice is yours, and whatever you choose, you’re still getting fit and increasing your overall wellbeing, no matter what level you decide to work at. So it’s perfectly suited for both casual exercisers and the more competitive-minded.
Running may help you live longer
According to a study, runners generally “have a 25%–40% reduced risk ofpremature mortalityand live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners.”
Part of what makes running such a potentially powerful tool for living a longer life is that it reduces your chances of dying from just about, as one article put it, anything.
It’s even been said that running for as little as ten minutes a day can still provide the benefits associated with lower risk of disease and premature death.
Two Ted Talks on running
For a little more running inspiration, take a look at these fantastic talks by Christopher McDougall and James O’Keefe.
A few books on running
And for even more inspiration, why not take a look at the books below…
So what are you waiting for? If you’ve got a pair of running shoes hidden away in the back of the wardrobe why not get out and go for a jog? And it doesn’t matter if you’re new to the exercise. There are plenty of apps and programmes out there designed to help get you started. One excellent resource is the NHS Couch to 5K app, which takes you through a 9-week programme designed to get you from complete beginner to running 5 kilometres.
When exercising from home, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do and when to do it, especially if you follow online workout videos. That gnawing, can’t-make-a-decision-what-to-put-on, feeling isn’t only limited to streaming sites. Sometimes the sheer volume of offerings that come back when you type in “HIIT workout” on YouTube can feel daunting.
So for those times when you’d rather just get on and do some exercise without all the decision-making of what you should be doing, why not try an exercise program? These are, essentially, curated calendars guiding you through a certain number of pre-chosen workout routines. And the good news is that there are plenty of them out there.
From yoga to HIIT, if you look hard enough you can find a program to suit almost any taste. But to keep things simple for now, we thought we’d share 6 excellent exercise programs that’ll help keep you motivated to move every day. We hope there’s something here for everyone!
IGNITE | 28 Day Yoga Program | ALL LEVELS YOGA CHALLENGE – Breathe and Flow
30 Day Workout Challenge – MrandMrsMuscle
30 Days of Yoga – Yoga With Adriene
30 DAY STRETCH CHALLENGE – Fearless Motivation Fitness
Yin Yoga is an excellent practice for restoring both the body and the mind. Whether used as a recovery method for athletes, an anti-stress tonic for busy people, or a simple tool for unwinding in the evening, this slow and soothing yoga style has something to offer to everyone.
We’ve written about the benefits of Yin Yoga previously on the blog, so today we thought we’d jump straight in and share some great classes for you to try at home. The videos below range from 15 to 90 minutes in length, and are presented from shortest to longest. So whatever your time restraints, we hope there’s a class here to suit your schedule.
15 Minute Mindful Relax & Restore Yin Yoga Practice
Yin Yoga for Inner Peace, Calm and Joy
Stretch the day’s tension away with this yin yoga sequence (35-minute practice) | Rituals
Yin Yoga Without Props – Full Body Yin Yoga for Beginners
45min. Yin Yoga “FULL BODY STRETCH” with Travis
50 Minute Full Body Yin Yoga Practice | Breathe and Flow Yoga
1 Hour Yin Yoga Class Without Props – Full Body Yin Yoga Class
Finding time for longer workouts isn’t always easy. Between work, family, and social commitments, exercise can sometimes take a back seat. And carving out 60 minutes a day can be much easier said than done. But when we’re struggling for time, there may be a deceivingly simple solution: micro workouts.
A micro workout is pretty much what you’d expect it to be – a very short bout of exercise which can be performed in a matter of minutes.
For many of us the idea of a super short workout may seem counter-intuitive. The general understanding is that longer is better. And whilst micro workouts probably shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for more prolonged and disciplined forms of exercise, there may be a valid place for them in our daily schedules.
Micro workouts explained
For a more in-depth understanding of what micro workouts actually are, and how you might benefit from them, take a look at this excellent video from the Mark’s Daily Apple YouTube channel:
Micro workouts in studies
There’s mounting research-based evidence to suggest that micro workouts can be good for us. One interesting study took a group of inactive people and asked them to pedal as hard as they could on a stationary bike for 20 seconds, 3 times a day (each round was separated by 4-5 hours of inactivity). After six weeks, the group’s CRF (cardiorespiratory fitness) improved by 9%, compared to a 13% improvement in a similar group who were asked to do the same 3 x 20 second bike sprints but in a 10-minute session, separated by 3-minute rest periods.
Another study found that just 1 minute of intense exercise within a 10-minute session (carried out 3 times per week over the course of 12 weeks) was just as effective in improving indices of cardiometabolic health in sedentary men as 50 minutes of continuous exercise per session.
Pilates is an incredibly popular form of exercise. It offers an all-round, integrated workout that focuses on core strength, muscle development, balance, and concentration.
It was developed in the early 20th Century by its namesake, Joseph Pilates, and has steadily grown in popularity ever since. Nowadays you can find Pilates classes almost anywhere you go, and with good reason. As the founder himself said, “[Pilates] develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and evaluates the spirit.”
So let’s take a look at why Pilates is such a great workout.
What is Pilates?
First things first: what exactly is Pilates? In a nutshell, it’s a slow, low-impact exercise method inspired by calisthenics, yoga, and ballet. It has a particular emphasis on strengthening the core, but is aimed at developing all-round fitness and wellbeing.
There are various types of Pilates that require special equipment such as the Reformer and Wunda Chair, but at its most basic level it can be performed with little more than a mat.
According to the Pilates Foundation, Joseph Pilates based his work on three principles: breath, whole-body health, and whole-body commitment. The whole-body, in this instance, referring to mind, body, and spirit.
It’s believed that more than 12 million people practise the method worldwide.
So, now that we’ve covered the what, let’s move on to the why and look at some of the things that make Pilates such a beneficial and popular practise. . .10
It builds strength, not bulk
Pilates is more about developing long lean muscles as opposed to straight bulk. So it’s an excellent choice for those who are looking for tone and not size.
The movements involved in Pilates also place a lot of emphasis on the core, engaging the abdominal muscles and muscles closest to the spine, which helps to build and strengthen the body’s frame.
Essentially, what you’ll develop from Pilates is the sort of functional strength that’s useful for the physical challenges of everyday life.
A strong core supports proper alignment, and proper alignment promotes good posture. By training and strengthening the abdominal and lower back muscles, your posture should naturally come into alignment. This is part of the reason why Pilates is often said to help those suffering from back pain.
It can be modified
One of the best reasons to practise Pilates is its accessibility. Many of the moves can be modified to accommodate a broad range of abilities and fitness levels, which means that beginners can jump straight in without feeling overwhelmed.
Setting your own difficulty level means that you can push yourself as and when you feel like it, and if any of the movements become too intense, you can take them down a notch.
Pilates is also a relatively gentle form of exercise. That’s not to suggest that it’s easy. But the fact that many of the movements are performed from a seated or reclining position means that there’s virtually no impact, and very little external strain on the body.
Pilates is good for the mind
Pilates challenges you to focus all of your attention on the movements you’re performing. The slow, flowing nature of the exercises requires unwavering concentration, and the emphasis on proper breathing introduces an element of mindfulness.
So although it can be very physically demanding and challenging, you may just find yourself feeling a little calmer and more focussed after a good Pilates class.
Yoga, after all, isn’t for everyone. And if you find instead that you resonate more with the particular style and sequencing of Pilates, then this is the post for you.
Below are the top ten results for the YouTube search term “Pilates workout” (as of November 2021). You’ll find a great selection of classes offered by a range of different channels. Interestingly, the most common channel to feature in the list is POPSUGAR Fitness, which takes up 3 of the 10 spots.
POP Pilates for Beginners – Total Body Workout
13 million views
Leg Slimming Pilates Butt and Thigh Workout to Lift Glutes & Tone Thighs
13 million views
Total Body Pilates! 20 Minute Tone & Shape, Legs, Butt, Abs, Beginners Home Workout, Flexib
8.3 million views
The Ultimate Pilates 21 Day Challenge ♥ Define Your Abs & Booty
6.4 million views
30-Minute Butt and Abs Pilates Bikini Workout With Jake DuPree | Class FitSugar
5.4 million views
Pilates 21 Day Challenge ♥ Full Body Workout For Results
25-Minute Pilates Workout to Tone Your Abs, Butt, and Arms x WundaBar Pilates | Class FitSugar
4.6 million views
45-Minute Cardio Pilates Total Body Workout
4.3 million views
30 MIN FULL BODY WORKOUT | At-Home Pilates
3.9 million views
That’s it for this week’s list. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to end there. Once you’ve made it through these workouts, why not build on your personal practise with these 5 Pilates moves for a killer core workout.