It's spring, which means the sun is shining, the temperature is rising, and it's time to get outside and jump-start your heart rate with a run or a jog. Running is extremely beneficial to both physical and mental well being. It can impact all bodily systems - from reducing your chances of catching the common cold, to lowering your risk of cancer, to strengthening your muscles and bones and reducing your chance of developing osteoporosis. Running is one of the most effective ways to improve the aerobic conditioning of your lungs and heart. As your cardiovascular health is enhanced, your blood pressure is reduced, the elasticity in your arteries increases, and your resting heart rate is lowered, all of which diminish your chance of heart attack and stroke, and improve circulation throughout your body. Seeking the 'runner's high'Emotional benefits, though harder to prove with statistics, have been reported by runners time and again. The "runner's high" is a physiologic change in your endorphin levels, which lower the effects of depression and reduces stress. Running can literally be a mood changer, as well as a life changer. Those who engage in daily exercise are more likely to make healthier food choices throughout the day. And consistent aerobic exercise, combined with a healthy diet, will result in weight loss and improved self-image, as well as reduced symptoms of depression.But where do you start? Running is one of the easiest and least expensive hobbies/activities. All you need is a pair of shoes. And then it is just you and the road, wherever you are. On the other hand, if you are a social person, joining a running group or signing up for local races are great ways to stay motivated and ensure you accomplish your goals. The Vail Recreation District offers a trail running series throughout the summer, with runs that vary from 3 to 14 miles. Start slowA word of caution: Start slow and listen to your body. Build a running base gradually, 1/2 to one mile at a time. Never increase your total mileage by more than 10 to 15 percent per week. Your pace should be comfortable and you should be able to hold a conversation. As your endurance improves try increasing your speed so that the conversation is interrupted with heavy breathing, pushing your cardiovascular system.Lastly, get proper footwear based on your body-type, arch of foot, and the type of running you plan on doing (road versus trail). Typical running shoes are classified into four main categories: motion control shoes for heavier weight runners with flat arches who have a tendency to over-pronate; stability shoes for medium to light-weight runners who have the tendency to over-pronate and need stiffness built into the arch of the shoe to help support their natural arch; cushion shoes for the medium to light-weight runner with high arches who stays in a neutral to supinated position as they run; and performance shoes for race day for runners who do not require additional arch support (be aware these shoes are lightweight and are not made for excessive mileage).Spring is a great time to add running to your exercise routine. Get outside and celebrate the sunshine and a healthier you. Lindsey Fitch completed her master and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from San Francisco State University/University of California, San Francisco. She's completed specialized training in running analysis and in her role at Vail Integrative Medical Group, she routinely assesses and treats running related imbalances and injuries. Vail Integrative Medical Group specializes in sports and spinal injuries and is a cooperative partner in the Vail Valley Partnership's Health & Wellness Initiative. Visit www.vailhealth.com or find them on Facebook.The Vail Valley Health & Wellness Initiative is led by the Vail Valley Partnership in conjunction with like-minded businesses, trade associations, consumer organizations and economic development organizations whose goal is to increase medical groups and meetings in the Vail Valley.
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