Updated: January 7th, 2021
What Does Running Do to Your Body? (by a Medical Doctor)

Running is the most popular and effective method of aerobic training. People run for fitness, race performance, weight loss and for fun. You can start running slowly and increase intensity and go for longer distances with time.

What are the physical benefits of regular running?

“Running about 6 miles a week may add up to 3 to 6 years to your life”.

This important finding is from a study done by the Mayo Clinic which shows that regular running can increase your life span.

  • Running helps to burn calories more than many other physical activities. Running fast burns more calories than running slow. Burning calories helps you to lose weight and gets you closer to your dream body.
  • High intensity anaerobic running is considered as a potent stimulator of the growth hormone. The Growth hormone which is secreted from your pituitary gland contributes to stronger muscles that enhance your performance. By frequent regular running along with proper training you will gain strength and speed that is similar to the effects produced by steroids.
  • Running releases “feel good” chemicals (endorphins). Even running for just 30 minutes can improve your mood, fights stress and anxiety.
  • Running keeps you physically active and reduces stress which helps you to fight effects of aging.

Can regular running prevent you from diseases?

  • Running can boost the health of your vital organs such as heart and lungs by improving circulation.
  • Running is known to reduce your blood pressure.
  • Regular running is found to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
  • Regular running improves the sensitivity of your body cells to insulin. By increasing the insulin sensitivity and fighting against insulin resistance, running can reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes.

What are the benefits of running specific to women?

running woman

  • An American study found that females who run regularly produce potent form of estrogen hormone much less than their sedentary counterparts. This will protect female runners from developing uterine, breast and colon cancer and reduces the risk by about 50%.
  • Osteoporosis is usually considered a “Woman’s Disease” as it is prevalent among many post -menopausal women. Osteoporosis can lead to fractures. As regular running increases your bone density, strengthens your muscles and knees, you will have a reduced risk for fractures. Running also helps to protect your joints and reduce inflammation.
  • As running stimulates your blood circulation, you will also get a healthy, glowing skin.

You can read more about what running does to a woman’s body here – and you can find our recommendation for best running shoes for women here.

How does running helps with weight loss?

The weight of your body is determined by the energy you consume and the energy you burn.

Running causes energy expenditure. If you have a balanced diet, you can use running to create a calorie deficit which in turn will promote weight loss.

If you practice poor dietary habits, however much you run will not help you to lose weight or achieve a slim body.
Aerobic exercises like running will control your appetite thus helping you to maintain a regular balanced diet.

Here is our complete guide about running and weight loss.

Can running change your physical appearance?

Your physical appearance mainly depends on the composition of your body. Body composition means how much your body consists of bone, lean muscle, organs, and water. Your genes and your diet play a major role here.

Regular running increases your lean muscle mass and decreases your subcutaneous fat which is a key benefit.

For you to be healthy you have to have a healthy amount of fat in your body. As fat gives you energy and balances your hormone levels fat has become an important component. Therefore, our muscle/fat ratio should be balanced.

Running helps with that balance. By running regularly your muscle mass increases while reducing the subcutaneous fat. This will give you a healthy physical appearance.

As regular running promotes weight loss, you will look slim and lean.

Does running affect the shape of your body?

running body shape

Frequent regular running gives you many benefits including shaping up your body. As your calves and thighs become toned, when your belly become flattened, you may notice that your body is gradually getting that shape you always wanted. Make sure you do dynamic stretching before you run to enhance these effects.

The muscles used to power you through your run are quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and your glutes. Running gets all these muscle groups into action which will definitely give you a toned, fit and a shapely body.

What does running do to your calf muscles?

Calf muscles are constantly in motion while you run. Running works well on toning your calves and shins.

What does running do to your thigh muscles?

Front of your thighs are formed by quadriceps and back of the thigh by hamstrings. Both these muscle groups get constant exercise when you run. This promotes burning of excess fat and increasing lean muscle mass in your thighs, giving you a toned, shapely look.

Does running lose your arm and shoulder fat?

Running causes fat burning in your entire body, but you cannot spot reduce the fat in your arms. If you run regularly your arms will also get slimmer with time along with your body. You can swing your arms while running, which will burn more fat and toning of your arms and shoulders. If you combine running with weight training it can help you to achieve more toned arms and shoulders.

Does running affect your belly fat?

Regular running helps to reduce fat from your entire body, provided there is a calorie deficit. Belly fat reduction is the most difficult and last to lose.

If you are overweight or obese, visit a dietician and formulate a proper diet plan. Make sure you stick to the diet plan to maintain that calorie deficit. You can combine exercises to work out your abdominal muscles along with running to obtain a toned belly.

Can you get a toned stomach by running?

Yes. When you run regularly your belly fat will burn gradually making your stomach more flattened and toned. You can enhance that effect by exercising your abs regularly.

Can running give you abs?

running abs

Running per se will not give you abs or six packs. But constant running can definitely reduce your belly fat and make your abs more prominent. However, core-specific exercises are the key to stronger abs, which can help you to be a better runner too.

Can you tone up by running?

Yes, regular running tones your body.
Running increases your lean muscle mass up to a certain point. Increased frequency of running will not increase your lean muscle beyond this point. Therefore, running should be combined with weight training to achieve the desirable level of muscle/ fat ratio which helps to gain the toned body you always wanted.

What is Runner’s face?

Runner’s face is the theory that repeated pulling and bouncing of the face while running can lead to a gaunt or thin facial appearance. That doesn’t mean that the skin on your face sag from bouncing.

Runner’s face which is more skeletal or bony happens when you burn subcutaneous fat on your face with regular running. It can occur in both men and women. While some will love that look, some of you may not as it feels that you look older.

Running does not age your skin; in fact it will make your skin look healthier as blood circulation to face improves. However, running can cause aging of your skin if you are frequently exposed to sun, as UV rays damages your skin, aging it faster. Therefore, always use good UV protection before you run outdoors. Use a sun screen with SPF 30 – 50 depending on your climate.

Can injuries occur while running?

It is possible to obtain injuries if you do not maintain a proper running technique. Not wearing proper running shoes can sprain your ankles and injure your ligaments.

How can you reduce some of the injuries which may occur while running?

  • Warm up and stretch lightly before you start running
  • Perform strength training exercises
  • maintain correct running technique
  • wear proper running shoes which are well fitting
  • Allow time for recovery
  • Applying ice on sore muscles
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration before, during and after running
  • Eat a balanced diet with essential nutrients

How long should you be able to run without stopping?

If you are a person who exercises regularly, you should be able to run nonstop for about 30 minutes without any breaks.

An average person (a non- competitive, relatively in shape runner) can usually complete 1 mile in about 10 minutes. If you are new to running, you might take 12 -15 minutes to run a mile. Marathon runners average a mile in 4-5 minutes.

How should you breathe when running?

runner face breathing

Breathing is the process of taking oxygen to fuel your running. You should not feel breathless while running.
The best way to breathe when running is to inhale and exhale using both your nose and mouth. Breathing through both your nose and mouth will keep your breathing steady while engaging your diaphragm for maximum oxygen intake.

Your breathing should be diaphragmatic which means your inhaling and exhaling should be deep enough to extend up to your stomach. Deep mouth breathing while running brings in more oxygen.

However, do not breathe forcefully through your nostrils as it can tighten your facial and jaw muscles which is not good when running. On the other hand, mouth breathing relaxes your jaw muscles.

If you feel breathless while running, it means you do not get adequate oxygen to fuel your workout. Then it is time to change the way you breathe.

What happens to your body after a long run?

Your ability to breathe (ventilatory capacity) will improve as you work out your respiratory muscles. Your body will be able to use oxygen efficiently to burn fat and glucose.

During running the energy is supplied by breaking down of glycogen stored in your muscles. Gradually the glycogen levels will be depleted which needs replenishing later.

Your heart will become stronger and your blood circulation will improve.

With time, the number and size of mitochondria (power houses of your cells) increase, improving your muscle endurance. This will be supported by improved circulation to your muscles, as capillaries which deliver blood to your muscles also enlarge and grow.

After a long run, you should hydrate yourself as soon as possible. Stretch major muscle groups, especially if they feel sore or tight. Using ice packs helps to soothe the sore muscles. You can consume a small nutritious meal afterwards.

How long does it take to see the results of running?

  • Your mood will elevate and you will be mentally relaxed once you start running. You may feel more confident and productive in life within days of starting to run.
  • You should see noticeable improvements in about 4-6 weeks, especially if you are new to running. If you can gradually increase your pace without getting breathless, it means that you are improving.
  • If your main aim is to get a toned and shapely body, combine your running with weight training and core-specific exercises to see better results.
  • If your main aim is to lose weight, it is important to stick to a proper diet plan which gives you a calorie deficit, if not only running won’t get you very far. If you make an effort to control your calorie intake along with running daily, then it is possible to see outstanding results within 2 – 3 months.
  • It will take at least 6 months of regular running to become heart healthy and to maintain your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • A year of regular running will make you stronger and look good.
  • Years of regular running will make you look younger and aging will be slower.

How do you get a runner’s body?

Runner’s body is not only becoming skinny by losing fat. Gaining muscle mass in addition to that lean look along with a strong body is what most runners dream of. The ultimate goal is to achieve that runner’s body and improve performance.

Here are a few tips…..

  • Consult an expert – A sports nutritionist will help you to formulate a specific diet plan to suit your needs. It is up to you to stick to that plan to maintain a calorie deficit in order to lose weight by running.
  • Eat frequent small meals – Research has found that people who eat 6 small meals instead of 3 large meals have a lower body mass index (BMI). Frequent small but nutritious meals will keep your metabolism steady throughout the day, as well as fueling your workouts adequately. You should consume adequate protein to build muscle, along with fiber rich vegetables and fruits to ensure satiety.
  • Strength training – For a regular runner, adding regular strength training will help you reach that ideal weight and shape. Resistance training not only builds lean muscle, but also increases usage of fuel more efficiently during races and workouts. Your fitness will gradually improve too.
  • High intensity interval training – In a Canadian research, runners who did 4 -6 thirty second treadmill sprints 3 times per week lost more fat after 6 weeks when compared to runners who did 30-60 minutes of steady state aerobic training.
    Therefore, while you run regularly as steady state aerobic training, adding 1 -2 high intensity sessions each week will help you achieve a leaner physique.



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