"The Positive Physiological Benefits of Running"
For my senior project I have decided to do research on a topic near and dear to my heart: running. I've always been awed by how much running can boost my overall life quality, so I decided to study the effects running has on the heart, lungs, brain, blood flow, neurotransmitter activity, and the impact running has had in my life. If you would like more information on the topics that I have made bullet points about in my slides, check the script in the back just above the works cited. The script has in-depth explanations on all my topics.
I hope you enjoy my PowerPoint presentation, and that it gives you an insight on just how important running, or aerobic exercise is for boosting your life quality!
For more information, check out my script:
Heart, Blood Flow, and Oxygen
When you lace your shoes up and go out on a run, your heart rate goes up “(the amount of times your heart beats per minute), and stroke volume (the amount of blood your heart pumps out with each beat) increase,” which in turn improves blood flow throughout your body (“Health Benefits Running”). Blood circulation increases when you run. Running causes your heart muscle to contract faster, so more blood moves throughout your body. As your heart rate increases, oxygen uptake increases. Sending oxygen to your brain, skin, and organs. One’s Cardiac Output (CO) is the amount of blood and oxygen that is pumped out by your heart every minute” (“Health Benefits of Running ''). The more you train, your CO increases, your body will be able to supply itself with more oxygen than before. As your CO increases you’ll be able to work harder during runs. For example your heart rate for a 10 minute mile might be 165 beats per minute (bpm), but after a couple weeks of training that same mile may be run with 135 bpm. This is due to your rpm dropping due to your body working more efficiently. “Runners have slower resting pulse rates and a high maximal oxygen consumption” (“How Running Affects the Heart”). After running consistently for an amount of time, say several weeks, your resting heart rate (rpm) goes down due to your heart muscle getting stronger. Studies have shown that running over time actually increases the size of your heart so your heart can pump enough blood and nutrients around your body.
When one runs consistently their muscles can absorb more oxygen from their bloodstream. Exercise, in this case running, triggers the growth of capillaries, which are tiny blood vessels in your muscles. A non-runner typically has “3 to 4” capillaries per muscle fiber, while a regular runner has “an average of 5 to 7” (“Health Benefits of Running”). “Capillaries let water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and waste products pass between your blood and muscles” (“Health Benefits of Running”). When you run, the more capillaries you have means your muscles can get more oxygen and nutrients, easily offloading gases and waste products.
VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake) increases as you run more often. This is the maximum rate your muscles can take oxygen from your bloodstream.
As one becomes fitter, “the number of mitochondria (energy producing cells) in your muscles increases” (“Health Benefits of Running”). Running and exercise in general can “increase the amount of red blood cells in your body improving the flow of oxygen to your mitochondria and helping them produce energy efficiently” (“Health Benefits of Running”). “Mitochondria releases energy from the breakdown of a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). If there isn’t enough oxygen flowing through one’s bloodstream the Mitochondria can’t work at their best. ATP must be broken down without the use of oxygen, and this can cause lactic acid to build up in your muscles when you run.
Your muscles get stronger when you run. When you run your muscles slightly tear and your body rebuilds them. After a time, you get stronger. When you do this repeatedly on a schedule this is exactly how you get stronger. I go on long distance runs which trains my slow twitch muscle fibers. Slow twitch muscle fibers are “fatigue resistant, focused on sustained, smaller movements” (“Fast-Twitch vs. Slow-Twitch Muscles”). The best marathoners are very skinny, but that doesn’t mean they are weak, in fact they have built up a considerable amount of slow twitch muslces to be able to run as they do. In opposition to slow twitch muscle fibers fast twitch muscle fibers are associated with quick bursts of movement that require maximum exertion. Activities like heavy lifting, or sprinting are examples of fast twitch muscles.
Stress, and Runner’s High
Neurotransmitters are rapid chemical messengers that communicate a certain feeling within the brain. “A single bout of exercise can promote positive emotions, supress negative feelings, reduce the body’s response to stress, and sometimes after intense exercise induce a euphoric state known as runner’s high” (“Effects of Exercise on the Brain, Animation”). Stress decreases when you run, and stress hormones (like Cortisol) are lessened and replaced by endorphins. Endorphins are one of the neurotransmitters that are released after running. Dopamine is released when, and after runnnig which is linked to reward pathways in the brain. After running for an amount of time, one get’s runner’s high. Due to your body coping to the physical stress posed upon your body, it releases a neurotransmitter called endorphins which is related to pain control and inhibits pain when one is running. Endorphins are a natural opiate-like neurotransmitter which is the reason you feel good when one is on the runner’s high. Seratonin is also released when one is exercising which is the neurotransmitter associated with overall well-being.
Running boosts brain power. I noticed pretty early on that whenever I did some sort of exercise, especially running my cognition increased. Cognition is all processes associated with thinking, remembering, listening, and communicating. When oxygen reaches your brain new neural connections form. There are several Neurotrophic factors (or the growth factors of the nervous tissue) that take place when one runs. “BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor)” is created when one runs, which protects existing neurons and leads to the creation of new neurons. The production of new neurons is called Neurogenesis. “IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor)” work together with BDNF for Neurogenesis to take place. “VEGF is (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor)” which leads to Angiognesis which is the production of new blood vessels. BDNF activities occur in various areas of the brain, but typically take place in the Hippocampus which is associated with cognition and memory, “regular exercise has shown to actually increase the size of the Hippocampus” (“Effects of Exercise on the Brain”). A creation of BDNF, IGF-1, and VEGF through 3-4 sessions of aerobic exercise a week “protect against the long term effects of aging, degenerative diseases, and injuries” (“Effects of Exercise on the Brain”).
The Impact Running Has Had On My Life
Running has had a tremendous impact on my life, and I started running when I was in 8th grade at La Colina. I remember running first thing in the morning or after school. Running would wake me up, give me more energy, I would be more focused, have more discipline, be more creative, and let me go throughout my day with a more positive mindset. My questions of why, and how do I get all these benefits from running have led me to conduct my senior project on the biological benefits of running on the human body. I researched the physiological benefits of running in my google slides, and in this essay will be covering how running has positively influenced my life.
Forcing myself to go out on a run takes discipline and that discipline transfers throughout my daily life. Running gets me ready for life, and lets me face my problems easier. Running is forced suffering, but once I go through the run I am ready to face bigger issues and tasks. After a run, I feel more stable throughout the day, and if something negative happens in my day, I am more ready to deal with it. Running makes me more productive. After a run, I am better at managing my time and am less prone to succumbing to distractions when work needs to be done. Running helps me avoid procrastination. Everybody likes to do all the small tasks before tackling the larger ones. After I run, I find myself doing large tasks first.
After a long day of school, or in this case, being quarantined inside my home doing schoolwork, an afternoon run gets me out of my lethargic, boring state of mind and into one of heightened energy levels. Whether it be the weekend or an important day before a test, I go back to whatever I'm doing refreshed with a new sense of energetic motivation.
As a creative person, running kindles my creativity. On weekends or breaks, I may feel bored and unmotivated. But when I go on a run, I can enter a creative space. I let my mind wander, and I can come up with excellent ideas. One of my hobbies as of late has been creative writing, and when I am on a run I take in the scenery, and the people: how they look, how they act, and what they're doing can inspire me to create characters for my creative writing works.
For me, running is also a sort of mindfulness practice. Most times I am by myself with no music or podcast in my ears. Running is like meditation, where I can find my center during the journey of going on a run. Thoughts, problems, and emotions flow as I put one foot in front of the other. I bring my awareness to the nature around me: the birds' chirping, the smell of mildew, the dirt path, and the sun coming through the trees. The first couple of miles might be annoying, but then the runner's high comes. I get a surge of energy, and everything feels enhanced.
"Get comfortable with the uncomfortable." - David Goggins
I remember Christmas day of 2018 I jump-started my long-distance running. One of the times I listened to a podcast, I hooked up the David Goggins and Joe Rogan Podcast. David Goggins is an ex-Navy Seal and an Ultra Runner, and in the podcast, he talked about his life of hardship. I got so motivated; I tried to squeeze every mile I could out of that podcast. Before I had listened to Goggins, I usually went on runs in between 3 to 6 miles. Then I ran 10 miles out of the blue. It was a grind, but it was one of the most satisfying days of my life as I pushed myself harder than I had ever before running-wise, and realized that I was capable of so much more than I was already doing.
On average, I run a week several times a week, and when the Coronavirus leaves Santa Barbara, and the social distancing restrictions are lifted, I plan to run a half Marathon. As my life goes on, I will continue stretching and running slowly but surely getting my running game up. As the years go by, I hope to run a marathon, and as my life goes on to continually improve my running practice.
Running has always been an outlet for me to vent out stress, and go forth through my daily life with heightened energy and a better mood. As I have progressed through my life, I have noticed running kindles creativity, productivity, and mindfulness. Doing my senior project on running is satisfying because now I know several factual, and biological benefits running poses on the human body. In recent years I have kindled a fascination for health and wellness and knowing biological facts why one feels the way they do lets me have a greater sense of control over my life. For example, the energy and happiness levels between someone who eats a heavy carbohydrate diet and a low carb high-fat diet is fascinating. This senior project may tell me something about my future. Maybe I can see myself as a cardiologist, or a nutritionist of sorts. Who knows? This project has motivated me to run moreso, and the sky's the limit with running. I can always gradually improve my running, and I am excited to see what I will accomplish in terms of my running career in the coming years.