When it comes to exercise, my personal approach has always included the idea that anything is better than nothing. It began as a way to justify my less-than-lengthy workouts, but there may be some real-world truth behind this idea. In fact, there are some pretty amazing things that happen to your body after just a 5 minute jog. Even if you can't squeeze a full workout into your day, a quick run around the block can still benefit your overall health. Hey, maybe my mantra wasn't so far off after all.
And really, a 5-minute run still counts as a real run. Maybe you wanted to run for a greater time or distance, and your kid's schedule or a work event or other life stuff got in the way. It's OK. Making space for the run you can do today is also so important. You're still lacing up those shoes and getting out the door for a few minutes of exercise, and that's amazing. It helps you stay in the habit of running, even on days when time is short. But more importantly, a quick run can still provide a ton of health benefits that just might make the rest of your day a little less stressful and hectic. It's totally worth the time it takes to slip on your running shoes and hit the pavement.
1. Elevates Heart Rate
It's difficult to overstate the importance of raising that heart rate through exercise. "Getting your heart-rate up to an elevated level does wonders for your metabolism and your spirits," says Thomas Watson, long-distance runner and the founder of Marathon Handbook. "Just a few minutes is enough to signal to the brain to release endorphins - those great natural painkillers we all have, which make the rest of the day a little better." A quick run can get your blood pumping, and it might even make your day a little better, too.
2. Improves Brain Function
Running really can help clear your head. "Due to the fact that exercise increases your heart rate, blood flows more readily throughout the body," says Caleb Backe, certified personal trainer and health & wellness expert for Maple Holistics. "This can improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, improving your overall brain function. There’s reason to believe that just five minutes of regular jogging encourages the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning) to grow." In any case, that quick jog might help you think better afterward.
3. Eases Joint Pain
Even your joints might appreciate this quick run. "In just five minutes you prompt your joints to produce synovial fluid, helping joint health and easing joint pain from general stiffness and arthritis," says Adnan Munye, a personal trainer and the founder of AMMFitness.
4. Improves Alertness
If you're topped out on caffeine consumption for the day, then consider a run instead. "You wake up! Movement helps increase the blood flow and literally ‘wakes’ the body and brain," says Munye. Plus, it's cheaper than buying another latte.
5. Burns Calories
It looks like every bit of exercise really does make a difference. "You burn calories! Just 5 minutes jogging will see you spark an increase in calorie burn," says Munye. Movement is cumulative.
6. Boosts Mood
Even if you don't experience the fabled runner's high, a run will most likely help you feel a little bit better. "Running can instantly improve our mood and mental state. It reduces the activity in frontal cortex so we can stop overthinking and feel more relaxed," says Sadi Khan, fitness research analyst for Run Repeat. Khan has completed extensive research on the many ways running affects the body.
7. Improves Circulation
Even a super quick run can get that blood flowing. "As a former USA swimmer who now has limited time in their schedule and is still very physically fit, I can say that quick workouts—even a 5 minute jog—help boost circulation in the body," says Stella Metsovas, author of Wild Mediterranean. "Circulatory benefits greater enhance your health by providing the body a physiological effect called ‘post-workout oxygen consumption' that helps burn calories all day long." By helping your heart beat and your blood flow, even a 5-minute jog can provide serious benefits for your health.