When it comes to running, the possibilities are unlimited. The treadmill, track, walkways, asphalt, and running in place are a few places where you could find your rhythm. Trail running, on the other hand, which involves jogging on dirt roads on grassy areas, hills, paths, and dirt tracks, is becoming more and more popular. The last 10 years have seen a 231% surge in trail running.

 

Aside from the novelty factor and the scenic vistas, trail running offers several health advantages.  

Improves balance

Running—or walking—on an uneven terrain, such as a path, tests your balance and requires your core to work harder to keep you upright. These uneven terrains help to strengthen your legs, ankles, and feet. Not only must your body constantly modify muscle activity to match the demands of running on uneven terrain, but it also takes additional control to stay balanced. The end effect is a stronger core and more solid ankles and feet, both of which provide more stability.

Helps to Prevent Falls

Your musculoskeletal system is composed of your neurological system and muscle tissue, which work collectively for the movement of your whole body. jogging on a path puts a greater strain on this system than jogging on the road or a treadmill.

According to research, trail running puts your neuromuscular system to the test, particularly in terms of muscle activation, coordination, and proprioception. This improves balance and leg strength as compared to road running, which may help reduce falls and fall-related injuries in the future.

More study is needed before trail running is recommended as a fall prevention strategy in the future.

Reduces the likelihood of repeat injuries

Runners frequently get repetitive or overuse injuries. Overuse injuries to the knee, ankle, foot, or shin account for approximately 70-80% of running problems.

A path not only allows for more diverse movement, but the dirt, grass, or wood chips give a softer landing than the repetitive hitting that occurs on asphalt, a track, or even a treadmill. However, you may be more susceptible to other forms of injuries, such as sprains and strains, especially if you are traveling too quickly and take an incorrect step.

This implies that running on a path naturally causes your body—and your heart—to work harder due to the terrain.

However, research suggests that you don’t need to run a lot or for a long period to boost your heart health. According to one study, jogging for as little as five to ten minutes per day at modest speeds is connected with significantly decreased odds of mortality for all reasons, as well as a decreased likelihood of developing heart disease.

Improves cognitive function

Navigating difficult paths and a continuously changing scenery needs you to concentrate, focus on your task, and control your body all at the same time. 

 This indicates that trail running places a higher cognitive burden on your brain than jogging on a flat surface such as a road or treadmill.

According to research, difficult activities such as trail running improve perception, working memory, and spatial awareness. This indicates that your brain is being educated to recall more and perceive your body in space more accurately. It may even learn to process information faster since you have to make immediate judgments about where your feet move when running.

Enhances mood

Running, for example, has been shown to improve mood and alleviate depressive symptoms. Several studies have indicated that aerobic exercise can lessen depressed symptoms in persons with severe depressive disorder by up to 58% after just eight weeks.

Combining this with the knowledge that investing time in the environment has a great effect on mood, and trail running might be precisely what you need to relieve stress and improve your mood. Research shows that nature therapy may significantly lower stress.

Staying surrounded by nature also gives you the feeling of retreat from your daily life, promotes unwinding, and decreases stress. It may also lower cholesterol, strengthen the immune system, and improve cognitive function.

Encourages joint health

While there is less study on how trail running affects your joints, preliminary findings are encouraging. For example, one research discovered that jogging on trails not only improves joint health but also strengthens and maintains joints.

Another investigation had similar findings. Researchers concluded that running may be healthier for people with osteoarthritis (OA) than swimming or cycling. They do, however, point out that persons with this illness must plan for lengthier recovery times than those without OA. They also advocate raising your step rate frequency when running, which can happen naturally in trail running, because it reduces cartilage’s contact area and contacting pressure.

The acceptability of any activity is determined by the intensity of your symptoms. Participating in high-intensity or high-impact exercises may worsen cartilage abnormalities. Before partaking in new activities that you have never attempted before, consult your healthcare practitioner.

Tips to Get Started

If you’re relatively fresh to trail running, the very first thing you should do is plan a suitable route. You don’t want to select a track with rough terrain for your first time out. Doing so raises your chance of damage from the start. Instead, choose a reasonably level or rolling track that is simple to follow. Eventually, you may add more tough terrain, steeper inclines, and additional difficulties.

Here are some other suggestions for getting started

Know the route

Make sure you know the route or record it on your GPS, and consider running with a friend. Getting lost in the woods is not a pleasant onetherefore be sure someone understands where you are going and the path you want to follow. You may even leave a note on your car explaining your plans.

Focus on time, not distance

Three miles on a path will take longer than three miles on a road or track. Before embarking on a path, consider how much running you can accomplish at once. You want to make sure you’re not overextending yourself.

Choose the appropriate shoes

Choose a comfortable pair with adequate assistance, peace of mind, and gripping capabilities. Running shoes that aren’t robust or supportive may raise your chance of injury.

Dress appropriately

Obviously, you want to dress for the weather, but you should also be prepared for the unexpected, like rain. This means you should bring a cap or a light jacket in case the weather changes unexpectedly before you finish.

Stay focused

When running, pay attention to the path in front of you and where your feet land. If you lose concentration on your surroundings and fall or tumble, you may sustain sprained ankles, twisted knees, or broken wrists.

Limit your sightseeing

While running, don’t look about or take in the environment. Instead, use the times you stop to take in the views to be as safe as possible.

A Quick Review

Trail running is an excellent method to add interest and variation to your workout. Not only can nature’s beauty soothe the mind, but working out may improve your body in a variety of ways. The advantages are numerous, ranging from improving heart health and joint health to enhancing mood and balance. Plus, getting started is quite simple. Choose a path that is appropriate for your fitness level, and keep your eyes on the trail to avoid damage.