5 Health Benefits of Trail Running

If you're tired of running the same routes on city streets or on the treadmill, then trail running can be a great way to break boredom and challenge yourself in a new way.

Trail running is exactly what it sounds like: lacing up those running shoes to score miles in the wild. The difference between road running and trail running is that trail running is a bit more unpredictable, which means that a smooth paved road is not guaranteed.

While elevation changes can occur on both road and trail, depending on location, trails can also have unpredictable terrain with surfaces (such as rocks, roots, and streams) that require special footwear designed to help support the foot During this style of training.

Health benefits of trail running

According to Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., RDN, CSSD, associate professor of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Central Washington University, road running and trail running share similar benefits, such as better aerobic conditioning, increased muscular endurance and a boost to mental health. 

Although Pritchett notes that cardiovascular results are likely comparable between the two types of running, research has not yet determined whether trail running offers a greater cardiovascular benefit than running on asphalt.

However, science has shown us that trail running actually has health benefits that go far beyond our physical health. Let's take a closer look at these benefits.

Promotes longevity

Good news! A recent 2020 systematic review showed that running was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer in men and women.

Pritchett notes that this review has no specific trends for weekly volume, pace, duration, or even terrain, but noted that running (or running) versus no running (or running) was shown to have improved participants' health as well as longevity benefits.

And more is not necessarily better when it comes to logging those miles. The authors also noted that higher doses of running may not have the greatest benefit in reducing mortality.

Improves cardiovascular health

Whether you are running or running, you are moving more than just your leg muscles. Yes, your heart is a muscle too! With every step you take, your heart pumps blood to help support your workout as it gets stronger over time.

A stronger heart sets you up for success, as noted by the previous 2020 systematic review with a lower observed mortality risk from cardiovascular disease in participants who performed any amount of running during the week.

While this benefit is not isolated from trail running, it is a baseline for future research that could examine the cardiovascular differences between road running and trail running.

Improves strength and balance of muscles

Amanda Brooks, athletic coach and author of Run To The Finish: The Daily Runner's Guide to Avoiding Injury, Ignoring the Clock and Loving the Run, notes that one of the best benefits she shares with her clients to get them on the road is the added bonus. Benefit of strength training that provides the ground to work stabilizer muscles.

Pritchett agrees and shares that given the varied terrain with trail running, runners can see improvements in lower extremity strength, balance, and neuromuscular benefits.

In addition, it reduces the impact on the joints due to the softer surface which can, in turn, reduce the risk of injury. But Pritchett advises moving more carefully, as there may be a greater risk of tripping over roots or rocks.

This is especially true when hydration and delivery are neglected and decision-making and cognition are impaired.

Increases mood and mental well-being.

One of the best ways to get your "vitamin N" (nature) to improve mental well-being, says Pritchett, is to run outside on the trails. And the poll agrees! According to a 2020 study, participants who logged up to 10.5 miles of trail running reported higher health and wellness scores in surveys.

Although there are limitations to this research, including self-reported research and limited sample diversity, it complements previous research. A study published in 2019 showed that experienced runners and beginners preferred specific features in their running environments to gain the restorative power of their run, which included green and lively spaces.

Promote the community

In a funk race? Gather your friends and place them on the trails, or consider joining a group of runners to embrace the community aspect that running can provide.

Brooks shares that "trail running can bring some fun and joy to many runners who spend their time so focused on pace when hitting the road."

While he points out that there are some limitations to trail running if you're working speed jobs for a street race, there are also a lot of benefits, as we saw earlier, and something a lot of us missed last year: the connection!

Enjoy Watching This Video About Trail Running Benefits

Source: REI

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