There’s no doubt that once you get used to it, running feels great. The ability to get outdoors in the fresh air is great for your body and mind. But what are the benefits of running for your physical and mental health?
Over the years I’ve heard all the reasons under the sun as to why you wouldn’t want to run regularly or long distance.
These reasons have mainly come from non-runners (no surprise there) or people who are not a fan of running.
In my opinion, running is one of the best ways to get fit and healthy.
It has the power to improve your physical and mental wellbeing is second to none.
It’s no secret that running improves your heart health and can even alleviate symptoms of depression.
And despite what many non-runners try to tell you, running actually strengthens your joints and has many bone-building benefits.
Here are some amazing benefits of running for physical and mental health.
Running improves heart health
Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises out there, and in my eyes is one of the biggest benefits of running.
The cardio exercise that running brings has been shown to drastically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
According to a 2014 study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, even running 10 minutes a day at slow speeds has been shown to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Running strengthens joints
Contrary to popular belief, running is good for your joints and improves bone density.
A study that was conducted on 100,000 runners and walkers presented some eye-opening results.
The study showed that running, compared to walking, significantly reduces the risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacement.
This is mainly due to the association between running and a lower BMI.
Every time you go for a run, you are stressing your bones and joints therefore making them stronger.
A good comparison is when you go to the gym and lift weights.
Every time you lift a dumbbell, your muscle contracts and you place stress on the muscle fibres, therefore making them stronger.
Running improves mental wellbeing
It’s no surprise that running has been shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In a 2011 study, it was found that exercise has been consistently shown to be associated with improved physical health.
It was also shown to improve life satisfaction, cognitive functioning and psychological wellbeing.
Even more so, the study found that exercise like running compares favourably to antidepressant medications.
It likened it as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression.
So next time you’re feeling a little blue, take yourself off on a run and see how you feel afterwards. I guarantee you won’t regret it!
Running is a form of moving meditation
In today’s world where everyone seems to be looking for a way to de-stress and be more present, running offers some of the best ways to do this.
Mindful running has become a hot topic recently as people are finding more ways to get away from their busy lives.
Or simply find some peace and quiet outdoors.
Running is good for you because it offers a great way to switch off and put all your worries at the back of your mind.
Running helps you lose weight
Running is a great way to help you to lose weight when combined with a healthy, balanced diet.
Many runners of average size estimate they burn roughly 100 calories per mile.
In order to make the most out of your running to lose weight, your training plan needs to include a range of running workouts
These workouts are great for torching a lot of calories without spending hours pounding the pavement.
While there is no best way to lose weight through running, intense workouts like interval training and hill repeats are better for burning calories.
Check out my blog post on running for weight loss for some killer workouts to help you lose weight.
Running is great for your legs
This may sound obvious but running targets some of the major muscles in your body and makes them stronger.
Your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves all benefit from running.
If you’re sitting behind a desk all day, a run can give you that all-body workout that your body (and mind) needs after a long day at the office.
Running gives you a high like no other exercise
The post-run high is something I wish I could bottle up and have it on standby when I’m having a particularly bad day. There really is no other feeling like it!
A run makes your body release ‘feel-good’ hormones like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and norepinephrine.
These chemicals contribute to the amazing feel you get during and after a run.
Running is free
Running is so accessible to so many people around the world because it’s free and you don’t need lots of expensive equipment to get started.
All you really need is a decent pair of trainers and off you go.
Many running events across the world are also offered free of charge, with Parkun being the best example of this.
Running makes you feel part of a community
Running allows you to become part of a big community of like-minded people who come together on a weekly basis, if not more, to build a sense of belonging and togetherness.
This is one of the major reasons why people take up running.
There are lots of running clubs and groups out there which you can join to maintain a regular running schedule, get some motivation and build accountability.
Running gets you outdoors more
Exercising outdoors is one of my favourite things to do. Being outside in a big, open green space is great for your body, mind and soul.
Trees, parks, dogs and stunning architecture make for more interesting viewing than the row of other runners in front of you at the gym.
Going for a run outdoors in the sunlight also gives your body a much-needed source of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
Running is great for your core
Many people associate running with the lower body, but it has many benefits for the core too.
It challenges all the muscles in your core, including your abs, obliques and erector spinae.
These muscles play a key role in stabilising your body and transferring energy between your arms and legs.
Looking for ways to improve your core? Check out my essential core exercises for runners.
Running improves your self-esteem
So many runners out there that attribute running to a greater self-worth and self-esteem.
For me it’s one of the major reasons I still run to this day.
This is because running involves setting and attaining goals – whether you’re building up to 1 mile, 5k, 10k or a half marathon.
When you succeed in attaining your running goal – a PB or not – this is a great boost for your confidence and self-esteem.
Next time you need a confidence boost, go for a run and see how you feel afterwards. Your body and mind will thank you for it!