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.
1. Do it anywhere.
Run, that is. Whether on the treadmill or in the park, it’s easy to rack up miles. Even better: Lace up your 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 and hit the road with other health-minded folks. Twenty questions is just as good during a run (boozy brunches afterward are optional).
3. Save some cash.
Forget fancy equipment or a pricey gym membership. When it comes to running, all you need is the right footwear.
4. Visit the doctor less.
Apples aren't the only things that 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.
Here's an excuse to slurp up more spaghetti: During intense training (like preparing for a race), increasing carb intake can help your performance and boost your 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. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 2003, Dec.;96(4):8750-7587.
6. Keep it interesting.
Forget boring laps around a track. Interval training helps boost metabolism and rev cardiovascular fitness. Bonus: Research shows people 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. Journal of sports sciences, 2011, Jul.;29(6):1466-447X.
7. Live longer.
Not only do runners have fewer disabilities and remain active longer than their sedentary counterparts, but they actually live longer too. 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. Archives of internal medicine, 2008, Sep.;168(15):1538-3679.
8. Get primal.
Turns out Bruce Springsteen was right: We were born to run. Running turned us from apes to humans and was used by our ancestors to elude prey.
9. Feel the burn.
For a 160-pound person, running can burn more than 850 calories an hour.
10. Bring sexy back.
Not only does having a rockin’ runner’s bod boost confidence in bed, but regular exercise can also 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. Hitting the track might also reduce symptoms of dementia and protect the brain against Alzheimer’s, even for 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. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD, 2011, Sep.;24(3):1875-8908. Cognitive function in elderly marathon runners: cross-sectional data from the marathon trial (APSOEM). Winker R, Lukas I, Perkmann T. Wiener klinische Wochenschrift, 2010, Nov.;122(23-24):1613-7671.
12. See the sunny side.
Active folks see the glass as half full, even after they're done sweating. Long-term effects of aerobic exercise on psychological outcomes. DiLorenzo TM, Bargman EP, Stucky-Ropp R. Preventive medicine, 1999, Apr.;28(1):0091-7435. Exercisers achieve greater acute exercise-induced mood enhancement than nonexercisers. Hoffman MD, Hoffman DR. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 2008, Mar.;89(2):1532-821X.
13. Get a natural glow.
Believe it or not, working up a sweat can rid your pores of the gunk that clogs them and leads to breakouts. Dermcidin: a novel human antibiotic peptide secreted by sweat glands. Schittek B, Hipfel R, Sauer B. Nature immunology, 2001, Dec.;2(12):1529-2908. A solid sweat session can also boost natural oils, keeping things fresh and healthy. (Just remember to remove makeup preworkout and wash gently afterward to avoid breakouts.)
14. Improve self-esteem.
Need another excuse to go green? Runners who ran outside and snagged a good view of nature showed increased self-esteem post-workout than those who had only unpleasant scenes to gaze at. The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Pretty J, Peacock J, Sellens M. International journal of environmental health research, 2006, Feb.;15(5):0960-3123. Ahem, dreadmill.
15. Stay steady.
Older runners keep their balance better than nonrunners, 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. European journal of applied physiology, 2006, Oct.;99(1):1439-6319.
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 running might help produce even stronger bones than cranking out reps. Lean body mass and weight-bearing activity in the prediction of bone mineral density in physically active men. Rector RS, Rogers R, Ruebel M. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 2009, Jun.;23(2):1533-4287. 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. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 2008, Mar.;89(2):1532-821X.
19. Take your furry friends.
Dogs are man’s best friend for a reason, and they can be man’s best workout buddy too. Grab a leash and 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 you feel it or not, running engages your midsection, strengthening those all-important muscles. Bonus: A solid core can improve performance. 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 performance high. Even better: Running encourages higher quality sleep, which translates into better zzzs 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 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, Vandenberg RJ, Motl RW. Health education research, 2009, Aug.;25(4):1465-3648. 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 their risk of heart disease by almost half compared to nonrunners. Exercise type and intensity in relation to coronary heart disease in men. Tanasescu M, Leitzmann MF, Rimm EB. JAMA, 2002, Nov.;288(16):0098-7484. Reductions in incident coronary heart disease risk above guideline physical activity levels in men. Williams PT. Atherosclerosis, 2009, Sep.;209(2):1879-1484. And for those already hitting the recommended physical activity guidelines (that's 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week), an extra spurt of exercise can lower your risk 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 an actual marathon. 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. Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.), 2012, May.;18():1528-3658.
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.
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.
Get in the know with our list of running lingo. Ready, set, run!
Originally published April 2014. Updated October 2016.