Are Runners Healthier than Bodybuilders? (Plus the Benefits of Each)

In the fitness world, the debate between the overall health of bodybuilders against that of runners is a polarizing topic.  Can we settle that question once and for all?

Runners are healthier than bodybuilders because of the cardiovascular benefits of the sport. Runners are primarily focused on performance and fitness, and reap benefits like an increased metabolic rate, improved blood pressure, stronger bones, and a better immune system. Bodybuilders are primarily concerned with the appearance of their musculature.

Read on below to find out if runners are usually healthier than bodybuilders, some of the health-related benefits of running, and the health-related benefits of weight training/bodybuilding.

Are runners usually healthier than bodybuilders?

Both running and bodybuilding can be incredibly taxing on the body when taken to the extreme, leading to major health problems. However, both sports may also contribute to improved overall health and fitness as well. 

While both sports can have positive and negative impacts on health, in general, runners are much healthier than bodybuilders, because running tends to be a lower-impact sport with regards to stress put on muscles and joints and it provides more cardiovascular benefits.

While marathon runners as a whole generally have higher levels of cardiovascular fitness than the average person, when a runner participates in excess endurance training, they can experience health effects such as atrial fibrillation or orthopedic maladies such as plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. 

Likewise, bodybuilding can be an extremely dangerous sport as well. There are a number of reasons for bodybuilding’s unhealthy reputation such as the proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs, negative effects on the endocrine system, the reproductive system, and the skeletal system among others. 

The important thing with each of these sports is to make sure you maintain balance. Too much of anything can present unforeseen health risks. 

Should runners still incorporate strength training?

Runners are known primarily for their slim bodies and – in the extreme – their disproportionately strong legs compared to relatively weak arms, but experienced runners know that added “gains” can actually improve their run.

Adding strength training to your workouts can provide gains for runners that have already reached their workload limits with regard to running. Therefore, it may be a good idea to incorporate a strength resistance program in mild increments. 

Obviously, you don’t want strength resistance training to inhibit your range of motion or overall flexibility. Serious runners will not abandon their typical training regimen for a weights-only approach. Strength training should be viewed as an auxiliary portion of your overall training plan. 

8 healthy benefits of running

Though there are some limits to how much running a person can incorporate in a healthy way into their lives, it is a net positive habit with regard to health and fitness.

Let’s look at a few positive benefits of running on your overall health: 

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Efficient burning of calories
  • Stronger bones
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Builds muscle
  • Decreased risk of arthritis
  • Improved immune system
  • Increased energy levels

Let’s take a minute to look at each of these and how running can improve more than just your leg tone.

Improved cardiovascular health

Running can improve overall cardiovascular health.

Running for at least ten minutes per day can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

While overtraining can put undue strain on your heart, the common myth that running is bad for cardiovascular health has not been proven. In fact, quite the opposite appears to be true: runners have healthier hearts.

Efficient burning of calories

Running is one of the most efficient exercises for burning lots of calories.

If you want to lose weight, try incorporating running into your regular exercise schedule.

With obesity being such a large factor in poor overall health in many Western countries, this metabolic efficiency can be a great health benefit for many budding runners. 

Stronger bones

We develop stronger bones by participating in multiple forms of exercise such as running, jumping, and a number of other weight-bearing movements. It’s not just drinking milk that makes your bones strong!

If you want to really make sure you have a strong skeletal system, you have to use it in the form of physical activity.

Running just so happens to be one of the best ways to achieve this. 

Improved blood pressure

The heart is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs to be exercised.

Cardiovascular taxing exercises such as running allow the heart to get stronger, and thus pump more blood.

This can improve the blood pressure levels of those who previously lived sedentary lifestyles. 

Builds muscle

Though not the fastest way to build muscle, running can have a positive impact on muscle development in the lower body.

If you want toned legs and ripped calves, running (especially on uneven or inclined terrain) can be a great exercise to participate in. 

Decreased risk of arthritis

There is a common myth that running can cause certain forms of arthritis. This needs to be dispelled, as the evidence suggests that quite the opposite is true

Runners actually report fewer cases of osteoarthritis than their non-running peers. Therefore, it appears that running may actually decrease the risk of arthritis, though more research is needed to be sure. 

Improved immune system

Moderate cardiovascular exercise such as running can benefit the immune system

Runners typically have stronger immune systems than those who live inactive lives. 

Obviously, overtraining can exhaust the body and temporarily weaken it, but as we all know, using your body has a strengthening effect on all its systems.

Increased energy levels

All forms of exercise, but especially running, have a way of increasing energy levels. This is because of changes that take place at the cellular level in your body. 

Exercise can lead to an increase in the production of mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cells. They are involved in the energy production process. 

Another reason for increased energy levels is the release of endorphins: powerful hormones that relieve stress and pain in the body, making the runner feel more alive and energized. 

5 healthy benefits of bodybuilding or weight training

Like running, if bodybuilding is done with intentionality and care, it can provide some major health benefits. Moderate forms of strength training can be combined with a running program to help develop overall fitness.

Some benefits of weight training include:

  • Better overall strength and stamina
  • Stronger bones
  • Improved joint stability
  • Higher metabolic rate
  • Improved mental health

Keep reading to see how weight training can deliver these results.

Better overall strength and stamina

It’s obvious that bodybuilding builds better overall strength and stamina, but it can be a bit more unclear as to what this means for our overall health.

Strength, it turns out, is extremely important for improving quality of life. 

This is especially true as we age, as strength affords us greater levels of mobility and the ability to accomplish everyday tasks. 

Stronger bones

Like running, strength training for bodybuilding is a weight-bearing exercise that improves the strength and stability of the entire skeletal system.

There really is no better way to develop strong bones than strength resistance training. 

Improved joint stability

Certain types of strength resistance training movements – often referred to as instability resistance training – are extremely effective for increasing long-term joint stability

Joint stability is responsible for maintaining control throughout the full range of motion, in your knee for example. Unstable joints are responsible for joint tenderness and weakness, as well as loss of flexibility.

While these exercises are not exactly bodybuilding lifts, they still fall under the static, strength resistance training category, as so were thought to be worth mentioning. 

Higher metabolic rate

Muscle burns more calories than fat.

Strength training, like the lifts that bodybuilders constantly perform, increases the resting metabolic rate. This is even true for older participants, which comes as a bit of a surprise because the metabolic rate tends to decrease as we age. 

Therefore strength training actually reverses people’s biological clock in a sense, not only providing them with the mobility and stability of their younger selves, but also the metabolism!

Improved mental health

Strength training has been linked to marked improvements in overall mental health on numerous occasions.

It’s no secret that improved physique, strength, and overall fitness are tied very closely to self-concept and mental well-being.

While we don’t encourage being obsessed with comparing metrics, there’s no denying that using your body makes you appreciate it more.