Saying that avid runners are a “different breed” of people isn’t really that much of an overstatement. If you are one, or if you have one in your life, you understand this. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a champion distance runner to reap the benefits of running. In fact, jogging for a mere 15 minutes a day can change your life. For real.
Researchers have established a direct connection between short spurts of physical activity and energy level, mood and cognitive function. Various tests have been done by observing people separated into groups. One group performs physical activity/exercise/movement for a short time. The other group stays sedentary and rests for the same amount of time. Researchers interviewed participants before and after. Questions were designed as a self-assessment of energy and mood. They also tested cognitive function before and after the tests. Results consistently show that being sedentary decreases mood and energy level. The tests also make it clear that mood and cognitive function are closely intertwined.
Jogging a short distance every day improves health and well-being
Competitive runners are well aware that the mind quits before the body. Cross Country and marathon runners, in particular, know that the key to success is to overcome the mind to keep moving toward the finish line. When your muscles tire and you feel weak, uncomfortable, thirsty, etc., your brain translates that to one message: Quit now! An experienced running coach knows how to teach runners to overcome such thoughts because the body is always more capable than the mind thinks it is.
The good news is that you don’t have run a 5k or a marathon to reap the benefits of jogging. You don’t even have to run at a high-level pace. All you have to do is jog lightly and consistently for 15 minutes or so. That’s it. If you do this for two weeks straight, five days a week, you’ll no doubt notice that you feel different after your run. You might describe your mood as energetic, alert, full of pep or happy.
Brain function improves after you’ve been jogging
While researchers aren’t quite sure why, test results consistently prove that cognitive ability increases when a person’s mood and energy levels have improved. In other words, the better you feel, the better brain function you’ll have. It goes like this: Aerobic exercise improves energy and mood. Good moods and increased energy levels improve brain performance, particularly for speed exercises involving numbers and letters.
Too much rest is a bad thing
We all need peace, quiet and stillness in life. That’s a fact. We also need rest on a regular and consistent basis. Problems arise, however, when your life has all “rest” and no physical activity. You have a greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer if you are sedentary. Jogging for 15 minutes a day is an easy remedy! Okay, so if you’re not used to jogging at all, you might say that putting in 15 minutes a day is a lot easier said than done. And, you’d probably be correct, for a time. Developing a new routine that involves aerobic activity is always challenging. I can almost guarantee, however, that Day 5 will be a lot easier than Day 1, and so on.
By the time you’ve been jogging 15 minutes a day for two weeks, you’ll feel like a different person. You’ll feel better. Have more energy. Feel lighter on your feet. Good about yourself for what you’ve accomplished. All. These. Things. And, more.
Note to those who have lingering symptoms after COVID-19
I don’t want to spend a lot of time writing about this because I try to avoid the topic. I adamantly believe that the less we focus on this particular topic, the better our lives will be. Having said that, I’m also a realist. Many people (myself included) have suffered long-term damage from the virus that came from Wuhan (just after gain-of-function research was done in a lab). One of the symptoms that appears to last a long time, if not permanently, in many people, is extreme fatigue. I have struggled to overcome this symptom.
Before I had the illness, I would jog a mile and a half to two miles, several times a week. After the illness, I couldn’t even run 50 meters. In fact, I couldn’t even cook supper without feeling as though I’d just climbed Mt. Everest. If you have suffered a similar fate, I encourage you to keep going. It will get better. Start out by walking, instead of jogging. When you feel ready to try jogging again, don’t run 15 minutes. Perhaps, just 5 minutes. Each day, try to go a little farther. Just do what you can, even if it’s not what you used to be able to do.
Fitness level and health decreases from inactivity
Research shows that two weeks of inactivity has an adverse effect on health and fitness. In fact, body fat and waist circumference can increase in this short amount of time if you become sedentary. Your body might become insulin resistant, as well, placing you at risk for blood sugar problems. Blood sugar is used to fuel your body. When you get your body and muscles moving, you produce an enzyme that helps your body process blood sugar. If you’re not moving on a regular basis, your body will not produce as much of this enzyme as you need. Lack of the enzyme means your body can’t absorb blood sugar to use for fuel as it must do to be healthy. Excess blood sugar can build up in your bloodstream, increasing the risk of diabetes.
Set achievable goals and watch health and life change for the better
Getting started is the most challenging part of a new exercise routine. Again, it’s a matter of overcoming your own negative thoughts. Especially if you’ve been sedentary for a while now, your mind, mood, energy level is going to fight you when you try to start jogging for 15 minutes every day. Enlist support from a like-minded friend! Join a support group online. Watch inspirational videos. Pray. Do whatever you have to do to get moving again and rise above your own mental attitude that is trying to hold you back.
Whether you run for distance or just to get in a quick cardio workout, it’s a valuable life skill with many benefits. Spring is just around the corner. This beautiful season is all about NEW LIFE. Why not commit to improving your health and well-being by jogging just 15 minutes a day? A few months from now, you’ll be glad you did!