NASHWAUK — There are many ways to exercise: bodyweight circuits, machine-guided muscle development, spin-offs of Eastern meditation practices, and more.

Yet one of the most beneficial exercises is one that has been around since humans had legs — running.

“The benefits of running are numerous, both physically and mentally,” said Dr. Amanda McDonald, a primary care provider at Fairview Mesaba Clinics-Hibbing. “It is a great way to clear your mind, reduce stress, combat depression and improve your sleep quality. It also helps with many medical conditions, reducing blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In a world where fast food and unhealthy options beckon and individuals see their waist sizes increase, running can help with weight loss and improve bones.

“With the ongoing obesity epidemic, running can also help with weight loss, in addition to improving bone health,” McDonald explained.

According to a study published last month in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, running can actually increase your lifespan.

As the study pointed out, running — no matter someone’s pace or mileage — dropped a person’s risk of premature death by almost 40 percent, a benefit that held true even when the researchers controlled for smoking, drinking and a history of health problems such as hypertension or obesity.

Further, the study found that an hour of running statistically lengthens life expectancy by seven hours.

Using a basis of two hours per week of training, researchers estimated that a typical runner would spend less than six months actually running over the course of almost 40 years, but could expect an increase in life expectancy of 3.2 years, for a net gain of about 2.8 years.

And a real upside of running?

It’s free and versatile.

“Running can be done anywhere, anytime,” McDonald said. “You don’t need a gym membership or a class schedule. You simply need the motivation to get started.”

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