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June 2, 2023

Health Benefits of Running (& Why I Love It).

Have you ever wondered why you feel so happy after running?

In the past few years, so much has been written about maintaining a more positive state of mind to live a long and healthy life. In this fast-paced world, where there is so much anxiety and stress, many have learned the importance of prioritizing the importance of searching for that happy place.

Now more than ever, medical experts we follow on social media share the importance of keeping our stress levels down to prevent heart disease and other medical conditions. We have learned so many strategies to boost our physical and psychological health. Especially right now, in this post-pandemic life, many of us are healing from all the stress we have endured during the past three years.

Throughout the years, running has helped me boost my physical and mental health; it makes me feel happy and takes me to a place where I feel stress-free and in the moment. Running rewires my brain, where positive emotions flow, where I feel so glad to feel connected with the earth beneath my feet.

How does running increase your happiness?

So many runners have become familiar with that feeling when the body experiences runner’s high, a peaceful post-run joyful sensation that makes you feel less anxious. Typically, runners achieve this delightful sense of joy due to the increased level of high endorphins, which is that happy hormone the body produces during and after long runs.

Speaking of happiness, the other day, I was running at a place surrounded by so many beautiful trees along the side of our running trail near our local university when I suddenly became aware of the birds chirping around me. I slowed down and looked up at their nest, and suddenly I felt this flow of unwavering happiness, just like I felt when I was running at my favorite park as a young teen.

What are the benefits of running?

Health experts believe running can increase a wide range of health benefits to our overall health.  For instance, according to WebMD, running may help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, and increase happiness. It also helps mitigate physical post-run muscle pain. Furthermore, a quick 10-minute daily run at a faster or slower pace may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Better cardio health. Running, or jogging, is one of the best cardio exercises you can do. Running for at least 10 minutes daily can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Runners lessen their chances of dying from heart disease by half.”

My days of running on the beach of Santo Janni Formia

Some of my best running memories occur on the Santo Janni Formia, Italy beach. I started running in my teens with my younger brother, Nando, during our summer vacation with our parents away from our city life in Naples, Italy.

Running on the warm sand at sunrise early in the morning was a blast. I still feel a light breeze on my red face from the Mediterranean Sea, always so refreshing. Landing on the soft sand without running shoes gives us freedom and relaxation; it was heaven on earth.

Running on the beach is easier on the body and our joints since it has less impact. After our long run, the best part was when we quickly jumped into the Mediterranean Sea to cool down. It felt refreshing, cooling our bodies down so quickly.

Here are some challenges with running.

When I was a new runner, that first-mile fatigue was intense. I felt as if my calves were giving up on me. But I always remember what my grandfather repeatedly said: “What does not kill you makes you stronger.” As I mentioned in my piece for the Health Journal, runners are mentally trained to run with some discomfort.

My body was screaming at me to stop. Instead, I kept on going. The fatigue that I experienced as a new runner was only temporary. Many new runners have admitted that tiredness disappears once you pass the first mile.

As we all know, running has its unique benefits and challenges. First, if you participate in any sport, there is always a risk of injury. To avoid the risk of injuries, always consult your doctor before exercising.

Furthermore, always pay attention to your body and try not to ignore any persistent pain. When I’m running, it doesn’t matter what songs or podcasts I’m listening to, I always take a moment to monitor any annoying pain and do my best not to push my physical boundaries. I wrote an article on this subject published in the Health Journal a few years ago, “When Runners Ignore the Pain, Bad Things Happen.”

In my case, I have injured myself so many times. Since 2017, I have undergone two knee surgeries. Then during the pandemic, when hospitals allowed doctors to do elective surgeries, I had surgery to correct a painful condition in an ankle ligament. Three months post-op, I shared a video of me running again on social media. Thankfully, I have a great sports doctor and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Robert Williams, who helps me get back on track after each injury.

A while back, I noticed that my right knee is acting up again; I had an MRI a couple of weeks ago.

The question is, will l ever stop running? No. Life happens, and we can’t live in fear. Yes, I have faced so many adversities with the running journey, but honestly, I’m not ready yet to stop what I love to do.

~

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