Few things can improve your life as much as a regular exercise routine. And among all the types of exercise, running is one of the most beneficial and easiest to do.
In fact, running is so good for you that a short time after starting a regular running routine, you’ll notice changes in your health, mood and job performance! Yes that’s right, running could even help you get that promotion!
So are you ready to feel better, be happier and have a better life 30 days from now? Check out these 11 amazing benefits that prove running is not only good for you, but it’s a life-changer!
We’ve divided the 11 benefits of running into three different categories.
- Emotional/Mental Benefits of Running
- Health Benefits of Running
- Lifestyle Benefits of Running (Basically how running will improve other areas of your life)
We’ve even included a short guide at the end with 3 quick tips to get the most out of your running routine and 1 big mistake you don’t want to make!
Let’s get started with…
3 Emotional or Mental Benefits of Running
1. Running Is a Major Stress Reliever
Been feeling a little stressed lately? Aren’t we all? Stress affects everyone at one point or another and each person tends to have their own type of coping mechanism.
Running is an amazing coping mechanism because it helps reduce stress in two different ways.
- Through External Factors
- Through Internal Factors
Let me explain.
External Factors that Reduce Stress
External factors from running cause more immediate relaxation. They include things like getting outside, helping you stay busy, being with friends or simply providing a change of scenery.
Being cooped up inside, alone with our negative thoughts is only going to increase stress and anxiety. But getting outside, breathing in some fresh air and seeing new places is refreshing for your mind.
It’s even better if you have a running buddy (or buddies). Although you may run alone most of the time, finding others who share your love of running helps foster new positive friendships based around something that improves your life.
But external factors just scratch the surface of the stress-relieving benefits of running. What about internal factors?
Internal Factors that Reduce Stress
A study published in 2001 regarding the effects of physical exercise on anxiety, depression, and sensitivity to stress mentioned: “…exercise training recruits a process which confers enduring resilience to stress.”
It even went so far as to suggest that exercise could be considered an effective psychological treatment for some patients suffering from these problems.
Wow! “Resilience to stress”. Wouldn’t it be great to be more resilient to stress?
Basically, runners tend to have what’s called a “low negative affect reactivity”. That’s just a fancy way of saying that you stay cool under pressure. Negative, uncomfortable and stressful situations won’t affect you as much.
This may have to do with the fact that as a runner, your mind and body get used to dealing with the strain of running. It’s kind of like running helps you practice dealing with stressful situations.
What stressful situations will you have to face in the next 30 days? Why not start running today and be ready to take them head-on?
In addition to reducing stress, running can also help relieve symptoms of depression. Let’s see how.
2. Running Helps Improve Depression
An estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States deal with at least one depressive episode every year. Even if you don’t battle severe depression, you most likely have to deal with the occasional bout of “the blues”.
Running can help improve the symptoms of depression and in some cases can even work just as well as behavioral therapy or medication.
Sound crazy? Notice what a study from 2012 found.
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and am not qualified to diagnose and treat depressive disorders. If you think you may have a depressive disorder, please contact your doctor while continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle.)
So the study from 2012 found that “exercise appears to be an effective treatment for depression, improving depressive symptoms to a comparable extent as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.”
Just let that sink in for a second…
Exercise, like running, was found to be just as effective as psychotherapy and drugs for improving depressive symptoms! Even modest levels of exercise, about 3 sessions of 30 minutes each, were found to improve depression.
Feeling a little down? Lace-up your runners, get outside and run the blues away!
3. Running Makes You Happier
A popular running adage says, “How to find happiness: 1. Put on sneakers, 2. …and run!” Does it really work that way?
Well, we just saw some of the benefits of running for reducing stress and improving depression. A lot of those same external and internal mechanisms also work together to make you happy.
You’ve probably heard of runners talking about the “runner’s high.” Others call running their “drug”. But is this just an urban legend?
Actually it’s not. It’s been proven that running releases endorphins, or what I like to call… your brains “happy chemicals”. This has been proven in countless studies, like this one published in 2015 in Neuropharmacology.
It showed that running activates similar reward pathways in your brain as some addictive drugs. The study even suggested that running could help those struggling with addiction because they get a similar “high” from running without the dangerous effects of drugs and alcohol.
Pretty powerful, right?
So we’ve seen the amazing mental benefits of running. What about the general health benefits of running? Let’s look at five.
5 Health Benefits of Running
1. Running helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Run. Burn calories. Lose weight. Seems simple enough, right?
It really is that simple. You don’t need a gym membership, a pool or some kind of fancy equipment. Just your legs and somewhere to run. That’s why running is one of the best forms of exercise to consistently keep your weight down. It’s simple and easy to do.
So how many calories will you actually burn while running? Maybe what you’re really wondering is, how long do I have to run to be able to eat a piece of cake and not gain any weight?
While the amount of calories burned does vary based on your body composition, weather and a host of other factors, here are some rough guidelines to give you an idea.
160lb person at 5mph (12:00 mile) = 630 calories an hour
200lb person at 5mph (12:00 mile) = 800 calories an hour
160lb person at 8mph (7:30 mile) = 900 calories an hour
200lb person at 8mph (7:30 mile) = 1,120 calories an hour
Even if you make no other changes to your diet, running for 30 minutes, 3 times a week at an easy 5mph pace means you’ll burn about an extra 3,600 calories in the next 30 days. That’s a lot of cake!
Staying consistent with even a basic running plan like this (3x/week for 30 minutes) will go a really long way in helping you lose and maintain a healthy weight.
If you want to be even more specific with your calorie calculations, check out this great calculator to see how many calories you burn while running.
2. Running Can Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
Running will not cure cancer and isn’t guaranteed to prevent it, but it can definitely help. A review of 170 studies published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that exercise is associated with a lower risk of some common cancers.
It even went so far as to say that, “The evidence for decreased risk with increased physical activity is classified as convincing for breast and colon cancers…” Some of these reduced risks may be indirectly related to the benefits of exercise, like running.
For example, obesity has been shown to lead to an increased risk of cancer. Therefore, running to keep your weight under control will surely help reduce your risk of cancer.
Cancer isn’t the only serious disease that running can help prevent. What about diabetes?
3. Running Can Lower the Risk of Diabetes
As more and more people in developed countries lead sedentary lifestyles while eating unhealthy foods, high blood glucose levels and diabetes have skyrocketed.
Running is one of the easiest ways to reduce this risk and even prevent some types of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association agrees. They even go so far as to say “Regular exercise may prevent or delay type 2 diabetes development.”
But do you have to be an elite runner to get this benefit?
A study in the American Journal of Medicine examined the effect of leisure-time running on the risk of type 2 diabetes. Its results were surprising!
“Participating in leisure-time running is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adults.” Of the 19,000 adults they followed throughout the study, they found that those who participated in leisure-time running had a 72 percent lower rate of diabetes.
That’s great news! You don’t have to be an elite runner logging hundreds of miles a month to benefit from the diabetes reducing effects of running.
What about heart health?
4. Running Helps Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Health
It’s no surprise that aerobic exercise is good for your heart. But running not only improves heart health and blood pressure levels, but it’s also associated with lower rates of death from heart disease.
How much do you have to run to get these benefits? One study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that as little as 5-10 minutes a day can greatly reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Even running as little as one mile has its benefits.
That’s really motivating to think about, especially if you’ve led a sedentary lifestyle and are struggling to start exercising. Setting an initial goal to run for 5-10 minutes every day isn’t too overwhelming and just about anybody can do it!
(Always remember to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.)
Check out the next and last running benefit for overall health, it might surprise you!
5. Running Strengthens Your Joints (Even your KNEES!)
When most people put running and knees in the same sentence, they’re usually accompanied by words like “pain”, “discomfort” and “problems”. And it is true that many runners at one time or another may suffer from some knee pain.
So how is it that running can actually help your joints, like the knees?
If you’re suffering from knee pain while running, running itself may not be the problem. The real problem may be the wrong type of shoes. If you chose your running shoes just based on their flashy looks and not to fit your own particular biomechanics, then your shoes could actually be contributing to your knee pain.
A lack of flexibility could also be a contributing factor as well as not warming up before running or increasing the distance of your runs too quickly.
So don’t be quick to accuse the sport of running for your knee pain, something else could be the culprit. But can running actually improve joint health?
A study was published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery that compared hip and knee arthritis rates between 675 marathon runners and the general population.
Which group do you think had a higher rate of hip and knee arthritis?
The study found that “…the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S. population”. And regarding hip and knee arthritis they found “There was no significant risk associated with running duration, intensity, mileage, or the number of marathons completed.”
Another study published in early 2020 found that “The knees of novice runners achieved sustained improvement, for at least 6 months post-marathon, in the condition of their bone marrow and articular cartilage.” So even new marathon runners had improved knee joints up to 6 months after their first marathon!
So far we’ve seen the amazing emotional benefits of running as well as how it can improve important aspects of your physical health.
But did you know that running can help you at work, to score better on tests and even improve your confidence?
Sound a little far fetched? Not after you read the next section of lifestyle running benefits.
3 Lifestyle Benefits of Running
1. Running Helps You Sleep Better
You know how you feel after a bad night’s sleep. Ugh! Despite the best of attempts to compensate with copious amounts of caffeine, nothing quite compares to getting a full 8 hours of quality Zs.
Regular exercise, like running, will help improve your sleep patterns, leading to more productive days. Charlene Gamaldo, the medical director at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep confirmed this is true when she said: “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality.”
The debate’s still out about when is the best time to exercise in order to get the greatest benefit for your sleep. Some might depend on the type of exercise you’re doing.
An article published in Harvard Men’s Health Watch suggests that low-intensity exercise, when performed in the evening, actually helped people fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep throughout the night.
However, if you do high-intensity exercise in the evening, like interval sprints, it can make it harder to fall asleep.
So if you run in the evenings, make sure it’s at an easy pace and you’ll fall asleep faster, sleep better and wake up refreshed and ready to take on tomorrow!
2. Running Boosts Your Confidence and Self-Esteem
To be successful long-term with a running program you need to set goals, be consistent, make it up steep hills and push yourself to stick to your program even if you don’t feel like running that day.
As you regularly conquer all of those little battles, you become more confident when facing difficult tasks in other aspects of your life.
Maybe your boss hands you a difficult assignment at work. A month ago it may have seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Now it doesn’t seem so big because you already got up that morning and ran a few miles as the sun was coming up. You began your day conquering challenges so now you’re primed and ready for any others that come along.
Imagine the boost you’ll get to your self-esteem when you look back on your first 30 days of running and see all the hills you climbed, the obstacles you overcame and the miles you beat into submission.
Mark on your calendar the date 30 days from now, start running today and in a month look back at all you’ve accomplished.
You’re almost done! Keep going to see the last of our 11 benefits showing how good running is for you.
A little secret… this one’s my favorite!
3. Running Improves Your Focus and Helps You Think Better
Having trouble focusing? I know how you feel. A lack of focus can affect every aspect of your life, from your work and academic performance to even your relationships with others. Wouldn’t it be great to find an easy way to quickly boost your focus?
Aerobic exercise, such as running, has been scientifically proven to do just that, improve your focus and cognitive function!
A 2012 study found “strong evidence of exercise-linked benefits related to task switching, selective attention, inhibition of prepotent responses, and working memory capacity”.
This study isn’t alone. Researchers consistently link exercise with increased mental function. This is true even in those who are getting older. Fit older adults who exercise consistently score better on cognitive tests than ones of a similar age who don’t exercise.
Even stroke patients benefit from significant improvements in their brain function after starting an exercise program.
So how will increased focus help you in the next 30 days? Do you have a big test at school? An important presentation to prepare for a client? Or a stressful family vacation?
Go for a run today and start reaping the benefits of improved mental clarity and focus!
But if you don’t have much experience running, how can you be sure to get the most out of your running program?
Check out these 3 quick tips and 1 big mistake you don’t want to make!
Bonus – 3 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Running and 1 Big Mistake New Runners Make
1. Try Running In the Morning
I know, I know… you’re probably thinking “But I’m not a morning person!”
I never said running in the morning was going to be easy. There’s just no better way to start your day than getting up and going for a run. You’ll have increased focus throughout the day, more motivation and even more energy!
If you’re not a morning person, the first week or two will be difficult. But stick with it! You’ll soon start to love it and then there’s no going back
2. Set Clear Running Goals
What are your running goals? It’s important to have measurable, defined goals. Just setting the goal of “run more each week” isn’t going to cut it.
It’s better to have clear goals like:
-Run 15 miles a week.
-Run my first marathon by the end of the year.
-Run 4 mornings a week for at least 3 miles a morning.
Sign Up for a Race
But why would I start racing if I’m just a recreational runner? You don’t have to be a professional runner to enter a race. There are most likely plenty of charity or benefit races in your local community.
It doesn’t have to be something huge like a marathon or a triathlon. There are benefits to running a 5k race. Having that set 5k race date and distance goal is extremely motivating and gives you a clear objective to work towards.
And then don’t make this BIG mistake!
3. Big Mistake – Many New Runners Buy the Wrong Running Shoes
Not all running shoes are created equal. Your regular old sneakers will be ok for the first couple of miles, but over time they can cause more harm than good.
Are you an under-pronator or over-pronator? Do you tend to strike first on your heel or toes? Do you have high-arches?
Spend a little time investigating and probably a few extra dollars to invest in the right pair of running shoes for you. They are well worth the time and money in order to fully enjoy running and prevent future pain and injuries.
Start Running and Change Your Life in 30 Days
Can you see your new self 30 days from now? More focused, more confident, healthier, lighter and ready to take on the world!
The facts about running are undeniable and the benefits are scientifically proven. But just reading this won’t change anything for you.
You have to get out there and do the work! Even if you have to start slow with 5-10 minutes of running a few times a week, you’ll quickly see the benefits and you won’t regret it.