Jogging is often defined as running at a pace less than 6 miles per hour (mph), and it has some significant benefits for people who want to improve their health without overdoing it.
What’s so great about this moderate aerobic exercise? Like running, it improves your cardiorespiratory health and boosts your mood. Here’s a list of some of the jogging’s other benefits:
- Boosts metabolism
Of course, the main reason you’re getting out there isn’t just to take in some vitamin D; you hope to burn calories while you do it. Sure enough, studies have found that joggers typically expend more energy on average during a 45-minute jog than walkers do during a similar amount of time.
- Slows aging
As you might have guessed from the name, jogging is excellent for your heart health—and cardiovascular health is closely linked with how old you’ll be when you die. In a study of more than 1 million adults who were followed for 22 years, those who ran less had higher mortality rates, including heart disease and cancer, while those who jogged at least 20 miles per week enjoyed a 30% lower early death rate compared to non-joggers. The authors estimated that up to 3 hours per week of running was enough to maintain good heart health into old age; in other words, 4-5 hours per week could help extend your lifespan.
- Reduces your risk of dying from all causes
The same study—conducted by the National Runners’ Health Study and the National Walkers’ Health Study at Brigham Young University and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology —found that joggers experienced a 39% lower death rate than non-joggers, which was mainly due to their lower risk of heart disease and cancer deaths. Meanwhile, walkers gain similar benefits as joggers for overall mortality but not for cardiovascular health specifically; however, since many people don’t work up to jogging until they’re well into middle age, it’s important to note how running can benefit anyone who starts earlier on. If you’ve been active in recent years, take this study with a grain of salt.
- Boosts your mood
Running doesn’t just help you shed pounds—it can also help you keep them off. A study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that participants who jogged regularly burned more energy than they consumed, helping to maintain or even lower their weight during young adulthood. Running may even boost brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which combat depression and anxiety, according to research published in February in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Other science has discovered it might even increase hippocampal volume, which helps protect against conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
- Prevents diabetes
That relationship between obesity and diabetes is no coincidence: Australian scientists have linked steady jogging (30 minutes, five times per week) with a reduced risk of diabetes. While the mechanisms aren’t entirely understood, studies have found jogging may improve your body’s use of insulin to process sugar in the blood, which could help reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Relieves back pain
According to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that running has been linked to lower rates of back pain. They tracked 738 runners for an average of 22 miles per week over two years and found that most didn’t experience any notable injuries or pain. You can chalk it up in part to how running strengthens muscles in your core, which helps support proper posture and even your bones.
- Staves off chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s
This part of your brain is responsible for memory formation and processing new information; some research suggests it might also play a role in learning, planning, self-control, and navigation. With this in mind, it makes sense that researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that jogging (or other aerobic activities) for 30 minutes 4-7 times per week could help prevent age-related cognitive decline by preventing shrinkage to the hippocampus. A remarkable study published earlier this year found that mice genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease turned back the clock on their symptoms if they were allowed to run on a wheel regularly.
- Keeps your brain sharp
Whether you’re keeping your mind sharp or not, regular exercise seems to keep your brain healthy. A study published last year in the journal Neurology found that women who walked at least 6 miles per week slashed their risk of dementia by 36% compared with those who didn’t walk as much. Researchers aren’t sure why, but they suspect it has something to do with blood flow or inflammation.
- Increases muscle mass and bone density
According to research in the Archives of Internal Medicine, you might be surprised to hear that jogging can help prevent osteoporosis. Scientists discovered that frequent running (4-5 times per month) increased hip bone density in premenopausal women by 13% while running for longer (20-30 minutes) at least three days per week bestowed an 8% increase in postmenopausal women. Just make sure you’re staying active with weight-bearing exercises, too.
- Keeps your heart healthy
The benefits of jogging don’t stop at your brain or bones—cardiovascular exercise can also help prevent heart disease. Suppose you’ve got more than 20 pounds to lose. In that case, it helps to know that obese people who run regularly are better protected against coronary heart disease than those who work out on machines at the gym, according to a study published last year in the American Heart Journal. And early research suggests that 30 minutes of running every other day reduces hypertension and thus decreases the risk of cardiovascular events like stroke.
Jogging also helps prevent obesity, which in turn lowers your risk of other diseases like diabetes. It improves cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart and lungs while also lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol.