Stat Check: The Truth Behind Running

This past Sunday, the temperature peaked to an unfamiliar 40 degrees; the sunshine beat down and the winds slowed just for one day. For crazy people like me, this meant running in shorts, free from the spandex, heavy layers or treadmills that define a runner’s life during New England’s winter months.

The day before, mind you, it was a good 10 degrees cooler, and yet as I drove through Boston, I saw close to 50 individuals laced up and hitting the streets. The sidewalks were hardly distinguishable, but these persistent individuals were carving their way. In their honor and in the vain hope that warm weather is on the horizon, this week’s “Stat Check” will focus on the statistics that surround running.

According to Running USA, the numbers of running event finishers in the United States has increased from 4,797,000 in 1990 to 19,025,000 in 2013. The biggest race in the country, based on finishers, is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race 10K in Atlanta, GA, which had 55,850 finishers on July 4, 2013. Now if you aren’t one to jump on the bandwagon due to peer pressure, there are other numbers to convince you of running’s greatness.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity can put you at a lower risk for the following diseases: cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer and depression. In addition, research has proven that moderately intense physical activity can reduce bone density loss that occurs naturally with age. If those aren’t enough reasons, the CDC cites that people who are active for about seven hours a week (just one hour a day) have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are couch potatoes.

But let’s say you refuse to believe that these diseases will ever affect you. If this is the case, then perhaps you are in need of some friends to help you more fully appreciate the world around you. The running community has gained a reputation for its collection of welcoming and to be frank, nice, people. The Huffington Post’s educational consultant, Jason Saltmarsh, took a stab as to why this might be the case; he surmised that the shared pain, humility and discipline that all runners experience creates a safe environment, in which people want to return to.

To further this idea of openness in runners, directors Matan Rochlitz and Ivo Gormley decided to film themselves asking intimate questions to people out for a run. Their idea was that exercise broke the normal social barriers and would lead to “candid, funny and oftentimes moving responses,” according to The Atlantic. Often, runners would delve into their worries about love, work, depression and even religion. The 11-minute short film, “The Runners”, can be found on Vimeo.

For the college-aged student, running becomes the most practical exercise there is. It is cost effective: all you truly need are a pair of sneakers, shorts and a t-shirt. It reduces stress: according to a study published in 2009, physical activity can reduce hypertension and furthermore reduce the risk of developing hypertension. It is a chance to disconnect: in a world where my phone hardly leaves my hand, going for a run is the freest moment of my day. If these statistics haven’t convinced you that hitting the streets is a good idea, I don’t know what will. But I sure hope that when the warmer weather comes, I’ll be seeing some new faces on the Storrs’ sidewalks.



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