What promises a healthier body, a sunnier outlook, and the perfect opportunity to catch up? This is no infomercial. Running is one of the best butt-kicking, calorie-blasting workouts around. Still not convinced? Here are 30 reasons to hit the ground running.
The Run-Down—Your Action Plan
1. Do it anywhere
Run, that is. Whether on the treadmill or in the park, it’s easy to rack up miles. Even better: Try lacing up the sneakers on your next vacation to explore a new place.
2. Make new friends
Tired of meeting duds at the bar? Check out local running groups or websites like meetup.com to hit the road with other health-minded folks. “Twenty questions” is just as good during a run (boozy brunches after are optional).
3. Save some cash
Forget fancy equipment or a pricey gym membership. When it comes to running, all you need to get started is the right footwear.
4. Visit the doctor less
It’s not only apples that can keep the doctor away. Active people are less likely to develop colon cancer. And ladies, women who regularly engage in intense workouts like running can reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 30 percent.
5. Eat more carbs
Who doesn’t love a pasta dinner? Now there’s an excuse to slurp up more spaghetti. During intense training like preparing for a race, increasing carb intake might help running performance and boost mood during harder runs. Higher dietary carbohydrate content during intensified running training results in better maintenance of performance and mood state. Achten, J, Halson, SL, Moseley, L, et al. Human Perfromance Laboratory, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT Birmingham, United Kingdom. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2004 Apr;96(4):1331-40. Epub 2003 Dec 5.
6. Keep it interesting
Forget boring laps around a track. Interval training helps boost metabolism and rev cardiovascular fitness. Bonus: Research shows runners who do intervals have more fun while running (really!) and might be more likely to keep it up. High-intensity interval running is perceived to be more enjoyable than moderate-intensity continuous exercise: implications for exercise adherence. Bartlett, JD, Close, GL, MacLaren, DP, et al. Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2011 Mar;29(6):547-53.
7. Live longer
Not only do runners have fewer disabilities and remain active longer than their sedentary counterparts, they actually live longer. And even as weekly running times decrease with age, the healthy benefits keep on ticking. Reduced disability and mortality among aging runners: a 21-year longitudinal study. Chakravarty, EF, Hubert, HB, Lingala, VB, et al. Division of Immunology and Rheumatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008 Aug 11;168(15):1638-46.
8. Get primal
Turns out Bruce Springsteen was right after all: Baby, we were born to run. It’s what turned us from apes to humans and was used by our ancestors to outrun prey over long distances.
9. Feel the burn
10. Bring sexy back
Not only can having a rockin’ runner’s bod boost confidence in bed, regular exercise will help flexibility between the sheets—and get you in the mood more often.
11. Boost memory
Exercise has been shown to help keep the mind sharp and could even reduce symptoms of dementia. Hitting the track might also protect the brain against Alzheimer’s, even among those with a family history of it. Physical exercise protects against Alzheimer's disease in 3xTg-AD mice. García-Mesa, Y, López-Ramos, JC, Giménez-Llort, L, et al. Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona (IIBB), CSIC-IDIBAPS, Barcelona, Spain. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2011;24(3):421-54. Cognitive function in elderly marathon runners: cross-sectional data from the marathon trial (APSOEM). Winker, R, Lukas, I, Perkmann, T, et al. Unit of Occupational Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. Wien Klin Wochenschr, 2010 Dec;122(23-24):704-16. Epub 2010 Nov 15.
12. See the sunny side
Active folks see the glass as half full not only while they exercise, but for up to twice as long after hanging up their kicks than their less active counterparts. Long-term effects of aerobic exercise on psychological outcomes. DiLorenzo, TM, Bargman, EP, Stucky-Ropp, R, et al. Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-Columbia. Columbia, MO. Preventive Medicine, 1999 Jan;28(1):75-85. Exercisers achieve greater acute exercise-induced mood enhancement than nonexercisers. Hoffman, MD, Hoffman, DR. Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Sacramento VA Medical Center, Mather, CA. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2008 Feb;89(2):358-63. Talk about “Happy Feet!”
13. Get a natural glow
Believe it or not, working up a sweat can rid your pores of gunk that clogs them and leads to breakouts. A solid sweat session can also boost natural oils, keeping things fresh and healthy. (Just remember to remove makeup pre-workout and wash gently afterward to avoid breakouts.)
14. Improve self-esteem
Need one more excuse to go green? Runners who ran outside and snagged a good view of nature showed an increased self-esteem post-workout than those who had only unpleasant scenes to gaze at. Ahem, dreadmill. The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Pretty, J, Peacock, J, Sellens, M, et al. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 2005 Oct;15(5):319-37.
15. Stay steady
Older runners can keep their balance better than non-runners, protecting their knees and tendons in the process. Be careful not to overdo it, though: Too much exercise can lead to stress injuries and bone loss. Age-related degeneration in leg-extensor muscle-tendon units decreases recovery performance after a forward fall: compensation with running experience. Karamanidis, K, Arampatzis, A. Institute of Biomechanics and Orthopaedics, German Sport University of Cologne, Carl-Diem-Weg 6, 50933 Cologne, Germany. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2007 Jan;99(1):73-85. Epub 2006 Oct 25.
16. Turn down the pressure
Running is a natural way to keep high blood pressure at bay—and fast. Amping up workouts can help lower blood pressure in just a few weeks.The association of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity with incidence of hypertension in men. Chase NL, Sui X, Lee DC. American journal of hypertension, 2009, Feb.;22(4):1941-7225.
17. Build stronger bones
Resistance training is awesome, but word on the street is that running might help produce even stronger bones than cranking out reps. As an impact exercise, running helps build the muscle that lower-impact workouts ignore, keeping bones healthier even as they age.
18. Get an energy boost
Feeling sluggish? Try going for a jog instead of lounging on the couch. Just one run can increase energy and decrease fatigue. Exercisers achieve greater acute exercise-induced mood enhancement than nonexercisers. Hoffman, MD, Hoffman, DR. Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Sacramento VA Medical Center, Mather, CA. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2008 Feb;89(2):358-63.
19. Bring your furry friends
Dogs are man’s best friend for a reason—but they can also be man’s best workout buddy, too. When it’s time to hit the trail, grab a leash to give your pet a new kind of treat.
20. Strengthen that core
A strong core improves posture, strengthens limbs, and helps make everyday activities a breeze. And whether we feel it or not, running engages your midsection, strengthening those all-important muscles. Bonus: A solid core in runners can improve performance, too.Does core strength training influence running kinetics, lower-extremity stability, and 5000-M performance in runners? Sato K, Mokha M. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 2009, May.;23(1):1533-4287.
21. Sleep better
Runners tend to adapt to set sleeping routines in order to keep running performance high. Even better: Running also encourages higher quality sleep, which translates into better Zzz’s all night long.The sportsman readjustment after transcontinental flight: a study on marathon runners. Montaruli A, Roveda E, Calogiuri G. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 2011, Jan.;49(4):0022-4707.
22. Do it year-round
23. Jam out to speed up
24. Check off those goals
Studies suggest that people who set and meet (or exceed) long-term fitness goals (like signing up for a half-marathon!) are more committed and satisfied with their exercise routines than those who trudge along aimlessly. Dose relations between goal setting, theory-based correlates of goal setting and increases in physical activity during a workplace trial. Dishman, RK, Vandenber, RJ, Moti, RW, et al. Department of Kinesiology, Ramsey Student Center, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Health Education Research, 2010 Aug;25(4):620-31. Epub 2009 Aug 4. And who doesn’t feel good about crossing items off their bucket list?
25. Show your heart some loving
People who run for just an hour a week can reduce the risk of heart disease by almost half compared to non-runners. Exercise type and intensity in relation to coronary heart disease in men Tanasescu, M, Leitzmann, MF, Rimm, EB, et al. Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, USA. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002 Oct 23-30;288(16):1994-2000. Reductions in incident coronary heart disease risk above guideline physical activity levels in men. Williams, PT. Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Donner Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, CA. Atherosclerosis, 2010 Apr;209(2):524-7. Epub 2009 Sep 16.. And for those already hitting the recommended physical activity guidelines, (150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week for adults) an extra spurt of exercise can lower the risks of heart disease even more. (Just be mindful not to overdo it and cause more damage than good.)
26. Run stress away
Ready to pull your hair out? Instead of tuning in to a brainless reality TV marathon, try running a real one. Not only does running boost the brain’s serotonin levels, regular exercise might actually remodel the brain, making it calmer and more stress resistant. The Calm Mouse: An Animal Model of Stress Reduction. Gurfein, BT, Stamm, AW, Bacchetti, P, et al. Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA Division of Experimental Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Molecular Medicine, 2012 Feb 29. doi: 10.2119/molmed.2012.00053.
27. Be one with nature
Want to feel the grass tickle your toes? Try minimalist sneakers or nothing at all. Just be sure to ease into this type of running to avoid injuries.
28. Increase stamina
Running regularly will improve stamina, making workouts more enjoyable and productive. And let’s not forget that lasting longer isn’t restricted to the track—it’s useful in…uh, other areas as well.
29. Get there faster
Instead of a leisurely evening stroll, try a jog around the neighborhood instead. It’ll burn more calories in the same amount of time.
30. Sound like a pro
We’ve got the running lingo to get you in the know. Ready, set, run!