Health & Injuries

Long Distance Running: What Are the Potential Benefits and Risks?

by On May 12, 2017

The list of all benefits associated with long distance running is virtually endless. While the potential benefits of long running are enticing, there are also risks associated with this cardio exercise.

Long Distance Running: What Are the Potential Benefits and Risks?

Many people rave about the numerous benefits of long distance running without a clear idea of what those benefits are. Sure, long distance running offers an efficient full-body workout, tones your body, improves your emotional well-being and burns a ton of calories, but there’s much more to that.

For starters, long distance running is gruelling and not an activity for the faint-hearted. On the flip side, the health benefits you can reap from a long, sweat-inducing run are almost endless.

Aside from the merits, there are also risks associated with long distance running that your trainer won’t tell you. If you’re interested in learning about the potential benefits and risks of long distance running, read through this piece for some insight.

What are the Potential Benefits of Long Distance Running?

Burning Calories

One benefit we must mention regarding long distance running is that it aids in burning serious calories. Long bouts of high-intensity running will burn calories like no other aerobic exercise. If you’re looking to shed some weight or keep your weight off in future, long distance runs will definitely come in handy.

Better yet, long runs also aid in improving after-burn, which is the body’s ability to keep burning calories even after exercising. Also, long distance running helps boost your body metabolism and as a result your body will burn lots of calories to prevent formation of body fat.

Long Distance Running: What Are the Potential Benefits and Risks?

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Better Knee Health

More often than not, long distance running is associated with repeated impact to the knees and hence many people have been ingrained with the notion that running brings more harm than good. However, the truth is that if you want to protect yourself from potential knee injuries down the road, particularly if you dread such an injury, you should take up some long distance running.

Long distance running has been found to be an excellent way to successfully prevent the onset of a knee injury by strengthening your knees and adjacent muscles. Better yet, long distance running can minimise knee pain and aid in preventing degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis.

Long Distance Running: What Are the Potential Benefits and Risks?

Photo Credit: 123RF

Improved Mental Health

Just like other exercise variations, long distance running stimulates your mental health in a positive way. Several studies have revealed that individuals who took part in long distance running experienced a 15 percent increase in their working memory after the exercise. The main reason behind this is that a long distance run puts proprioceptive and tactile demands on the body, which later stimulates you brain to work harder.

Running also triggers the release of various chemicals in the brain and the result is improved emotions and a mind centred in a state of peace. Running also stimulates the physiological release of serotonin, a chemical that helps improve one’s mood.

You’ll Sleep Better

Studies have shown that long distance running has an impact on the psychological function of sleep. Individuals who adhere to a consistent long distance running routine show decreased and general lower insomnia severity scores as compared to their non-runner counterparts.

Better yet, individuals who engage in long distance running are able to catch sleep faster, sleep deeper and for a longer time without waking up.

Long Distance Running: What Are the Potential Benefits and Risks?

Photo Credit: 123RF

Lowers your Risk of Suffering from Cancer

It is true that an active lifestyle brings out a healthy body, but long distance running appears to be more rewarding when it comes to warding off the evils of cancer. Research has shown that individuals who are physically active have a lower risk of developing some types of cancer. This also implies that runners enjoy a higher life expectancy than their non-runner counterparts.

Better Hearing

Another surprising benefit of long distance running is that it improves your hearing. From the basics, running aids in boosting the overall blood flow and circulation in your entire body, which implies that you’ll have more blood flowing to the ears and as a result, improved hearing capabilities. An increased flow of blood to the ears improves the function of your eardrums so that you can better pick up sounds at low and high frequencies.

Having familiarised yourself with the benefits you can reap from long distance running, let’s now take a glimpse at the risks associated with long distance running.

What are the Risks of Long Distance Running?

Long distance running exerts immense strain on your body. But just how hazardous for your body’s health can it be? Here are the main health risks of long distance running.


One of the greatest problems long distance runners have to overcome is dehydration. In an intense race on a hot, humid day, a staggering 4 litres of body fluid can be lost through exhalation and sweating. Water comprises more than two-thirds of a healthy human body and it aids in digestion, lubricates the joints, keeps the skin healthy and flushes out toxins and wastes. A dehydrated body means that certain body processes will be disrupted, resulting in poor body health.


Like many other forms of exercise, long distance running also exposes you to the risk of injuries. In fact, a great deal of casualties that occur during a race usually concern injuries like strains and sprains. Although running exposes an individual to numerous body injuries, the truth is that most of them can be avoided by stretching and warming up just before the race.

Long Distance Running: What Are the Potential Benefits and Risks?

Photo Credit: 123RF

Allergies and Asthma

Although not so common, long distance running also increases the risks on suffering from allergies and asthma. The challenge with long distance running is that you will spend a lot of time outdoors which increases your exposure to airborne allergens that can cause various allergies. Long distance running without proper hydration can result in drying of the airways, which can result in an asthmatic condition.

Takeaway Message

The health benefits you can reap from long distance running are nothing to shrug at. Improved hearing capabilities, better sleep, better mental health, and better knee health are just a few of the numerous things regular long distance running can do for your body.

Although you might not begin with a really long distance run, you can gradually work your way up.

Do you love long distance running? How do you protect yourself from any potential injury?

Annie Jones is the founder of BoostBodyfit. She is a huge fan of healthy eating and living! She creates the blog purely to share her experiences and expertise on health, nutrition, exercise and everything else between.

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