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This fitness activity got me – and millions of others – through the pandemic

It fascinates me how the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other can have such a profound health impact. Here, I share why running is life-changing as well as the reason Vitality is spearheading the global Vitality Running World Cup. It’s another step… actually many thousands of steps… towards our goal of making 100 million people 20% more active by 2025.

Many of you would have heard of Elisha Nochomovitz, the French restaurant worker who ran the distance of a 40 km marathon on his seven-metre balcony during lockdown in Toulouse last year. There were others around the world, including me, who found interesting ways to run, such as doing endless laps around the garden.

We’ve had to be inventive about staying fit safely while the COVID-19 vaccination rollout gathers steam, and new infection waves and emergent variants pop up. I’m still hearing from Vitality members who are being creative with their running routines. One of these is Ros Karamba from Cape Town, who calls herself “a couch potato turned amateur marathon runner”. She kept her fitness up despite her running groups going digital, and did a virtual Comrades Marathon in June. Dr Nandi Mafongosi learned to ride a bike, run and swim in her 30s and has spent lockdown supporting people  who want to start running, swimming or attempt triathlons (she credits her Vitality rewards for the push).

We’re made to run

These anecdotes, along with a vast body of research, tell me that running is an aspect of fitness that has been consistently achievable around the world as long as our bodies are able to get up and go, no matter the circumstances. Maybe it goes back to our bipedal origins, but science tells us that the impact of running on our health is almost immediate.

In general, runners have a 25% to 40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately three years longer than non-runners. Especially relevant right now is that physically active people who contract COVID-19 have a significantly better prognosis than those who are physically inactive.

The energy and endorphins – the feel-good hormones – I get after a run keep me going during my long working days. Vitality biokineticist Mari Leach describes it as ‘rejuvenation’, because regular exercise makes your heart stronger, and a stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. The pressure on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure. Isn’t it amazing? Regular exercise also helps you to maintain a healthy weight, which is another important way to control blood pressure.

Actually, the physical demands of running are beneficial to just about every system of the body. Vitality data tells us that runners have fewer hospital claims than non-runners, and a lower chance of experiencing chronic illness and diabetes. We also know that running can guard against cancer, reduce the risk of dementia and alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety.

And, for me, it is also about the low barrier to entry. Virtually no equipment is needed for you to start walking and then running regularly. (Of course, Vitality does help its members with tech-based incentives and opportunities, like access to devices and running shoes.)

Let’s move more with the Running World Cup

Vitality has been successfully incentivising people to get more active for over 20 years and we are more committed than ever, in light of the positive effect of activity on COVID-19 outcomes. Our global pledge is to make 100 million people 20% more active by 2025.

That is why, from 21 September to 21 October, the Vitality Running World Cup will give everyone the chance to represent their country in the free-to-enter, knockout, global running competition. Open to anyone over the age of 13, everyone who completes a minimum of three kilometres in under 30 minutes and tracks their kilometres via a smartphone or fitness device, will be able to contribute towards their country’s total. It’s free to enter by signing up at runningworldcup.com. I encourage you to download the app and sign up – we’ve got loads of rewards for you.

Vitality has a long-standing commitment to running, pioneering with parkrun and myrun, as well as our own initiatives like Team Vitality and Vitality’s multicity Run Series – many of which went virtual to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vitality Running World Cup is yet another way for you to reap the benefits of running and feel part of our global campaign toward good health.

I’m looking forward to running with you to represent South Africa.

  • We’re going for the Guinness World Record! Make sure you are one of 1 million people running virtually together on 25 September 2021. Join us and complete a 3 km in 30 minutes to become a World Record holder. You will have to log your run on the Vitality Running World Cup app (download and register). Ensure a qualifying fitness device or Strava is linked to the VRWC app to make your run count.
  • Remember: qualifiers for the first round of the Vitality Running World Cup end 26 September 2021, so let’s try get South Africa to the next round of tournament. There are big prizes waiting for those who enter, and even more for runners – watch out on Vitality’s social media platforms for more.  DM/ML

Author: Dinesh Govender, Discovery Vitality CEO


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