A trail is essentially a network of paths that form their own ecosystem. These paths are often public, but they can also be dirt roads and bridle paths, or even backcountry hiking trails. They follow natural terrain, contouring and climbing over natural obstacles like streams and hills.
Many trails are also marked with signs at intervals to indicate the distance to a particular point or to tell you when you’re exiting the path so you don’t get lost.
Trails have many benefits for your health, from improving cardiorespiratory fitness (superiority of cardiac muscle) to increasing balance and stability, strengthening muscles, improving joint mobility and flexibility, and enhancing recovery after physical activity or injury. Read on for more details on what running along a trail has to offer your body…
Running on Trails Improves Your Fitness
Running on Trails Improves Your Fitness When you run on trails, you’re training your body to run with increased intensity while also practicing the skills you’ll need when you hit the road. With training, you’ll be able to run longer, faster and with greater resistance to fatigue.
You’ll also build stronger leg muscles, improve your posture, improve your balance and become more aware of your surroundings. Trails are an excellent place to start if you’re new to running because, besides getting used to the increased intensity, you also get to practice all the skills you’ll need in order to run on roads. On the other hand, experienced trail runners often use them for interval training and speed workouts.
Running on Trails Increases Your Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Running on trails is low intensity, which means it will have a much less intense impact on your fitness. This is because your cardiovascular system is not working as hard, taking in and delivering a lot less oxygen than it would when running at fast paces on the roads.
In fact, you’re likely to reach your daily aerobic capacity and improve your fitness at a lower intensity than when you’re running fast on the roads. Cardiorespiratory fitness is a combination of your capacity to maintain your cardiovascular system’s performance while also contracting and relaxing the muscles that move it.
It’s a good indicator of your overall fitness level and how well you can respond to external stressors like running faster or farther at certain times. Cardiorespiratory fitness can be improved through aerobic training, like running, cycling and swimming.
Running on Trails Stabilizes your Body When You’re Out of Shape
When you’re starting out with running, you’re often running at a pace that’s too fast or too slow for your fitness level. Running faster can make it harder to keep up, increasing the risk of injury and slowing you down so you’re not reaching your potential. Running slower can make it harder for your body to use the energy you’re taking in at a given pace, increasing the risk of long-term fatigue and injury.
However, when you’re out of shape, running on trails is a great way to stabilize your body and make it easier for it to perform. Running at an intensity that matches your fitness level, combined with the reduced impact of trail running, helps you maintain your performance while you’re out of shape.
Running on Trails Increases Balance and Stability
When you’re running on trails, you’re learning to use your core muscles more intensely. As you run faster, your core uses more force to keep your body stable. When you’re out of shape, your core is usually the last muscle group to improve, so trail running helps to stabilize it by strengthening it.
Your balance and stability are also better when you’re out of shape because your muscles require less force when they have a particular task. This means that you’ll be able to run farther and at a slower pace without using as much energy.
Running on Trails Strengthens Musculoskeletal System
Trail running is low intensity, which means your muscles receive less force than they would when you’re running fast on the roads. When you’re out of shape, however, you’re taking in more force without necessarily having to push it very hard.
This means that you’re building stronger muscles while also using less energy. Because your muscles are stronger and require less energy, they’re able to complete the task at hand better. This means that you’ll have better posture when you’re running on the trails, preventing back pain and other injuries that result from poor positioning.
Running on Trails Improves Flexibility and Mobility
A strong core helps to stabilize your body so that you have better posture. This, in turn, helps to improve your mobility by decreasing the risk of injury and shortening recovery times after an activity when you’re out of shape.
Trail running also improves your flexibility through increased mobility in your joints. Joint mobility is important for preventing injury and allowing you to complete activities with less risk of injury. The more flexible a joint is, the less risk there is of injuring it by doing the same activities.
Running on Trails Enhances Recovery After Exercise or Injury
A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that trail running was as effective as other types of exercise in improving recovery times after injury. The researchers found that, when done at the right intensity, trail running helped to reduce pain, increase flexibility and strengthen muscles.
They also found that running on trails at an intensity that was right for an individual was much safer than running on roads at high intensities. Trails also have a tremendous psychological benefit for runners. Engaging in a form of exercise that is outside and natural can help to reduce stress in daily life and improve overall mental health.
Trails are ideal for running because they offer the same benefits as running on roads, with the added benefit of being outside, natural terrain, and less traffic. Running on trails also allows you to connect with nature and reduce the stresses of modern living.
Trails are an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, build strength, balance and joint mobility, and even recover from injury better than running on paved roads.
As you can see, trail running has many health benefits, making it an excellent form of exercise. Now that you know what trail running has to offer, you can get out and explore the natural paths near you to reap the benefits of this low-impact activity.