Reinvigorate your love for running with these top 10 reasons that pounding the pavement is a great activity for any athlete.
Imagine racing down the sidewalk, your heart pounding, sweat dripping, and the Chariots of Fire theme song blasting in both ears. Sounds epic, right? There’s a reason so many movie plots revolve around running—it’s a sport unlike any other. Required equipment is minimal, no playing field is needed, and endorphins abound.
But apart from being immortalized on the silver screen, daily running has major benefits that can turn your world upside down (in a really good way). And you don’t have to be going for Olympic glory to reap the rewards—running a mile every day can significantly change your life.
So, what exactly are these magical side effects? Take a look at 10 of the greatest benefits of daily running below for a full overview, or use the links to jump to the one you’re most excited about!
- Improve Your Cardiorespiratory Health (AKA, Fitness)
- Kick Depression to the Curb
- Running Builds Strong Bones
- Get Better Sleep (Finally)
- Become Smarter
- Relieve Stress without Breaking Things
- Lose Weight
- Outlive Your Enemies
- Take a Stand Against Cancer
- You’ll Have a New Hobby
1. Improve Your Cardiorespiratory Health (AKA, Fitness)
When you exercise, your heart pumps more quickly, strengthening all of your cardiac muscles. Similarly, your lungs expand and contract at faster rates during exercise, which forces your respiratory system to become more powerful.
Good cardiorespiratory health can prevent heart disease, lower your cholesterol, prevent type 2 diabetes, increase lung capacity, and boost your overall immune system. The better your cardiorespiratory health, the more fit and in shape you’ll be. Running a mile every day is an excellent way to keep your heart and lungs working at full capacity. Good motivation, right?
2. Kick Depression
Ever heard of a runner’s high? Exercising releases hormones in your brain called endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals proven to increase your mood and lower your perception of pain. When you run, you’re flooded with endorphins that can drastically improve your levels of happiness. If you’ve ever experienced overwhelming elation at the end of a glorious run, you know what we mean.
Numerous studies have shown that people suffering from depression, severe anxiety, and other mental health problems can reap the rewards of running. In fact, regular aerobic exercise (AKA running) can be just as effective as antidepressant medication! While it isn’t a cure for everyone, it most certainly can benefit anyone. Running just one mile each day is a fantastic natural mood enhancer and can help depression patients see the light on the other side.
3. Running Builds Strong Bones
As you run, the stress you put on your bones makes them stronger over time by increasing your bone density. This helps decrease your risk for osteoporosis—a condition that makes your bones weak and prone to breaking.
For a long time, researchers and doctors thought that resistance training, such as lifting weights, was the best way to beef up your bone density. But recent insight shows that high-impact exercise like running can be just as good, if not better!
4. Get Better Sleep (Finally)
Tired of being tired? Believe it or not, running a mile every day can help you get a good night’s sleep. While you might think that tiring yourself out automatically leads to better sleep, it’s much more complicated than that. Because running releases endorphins, all those anxious thoughts that keep you up at night just start floating to the background. Over time, your over-stimulated brain learns to relax and push away those wide-awake worries through the magical effects of running.
Not to mention, body temperature can have an effect on how easily you slip into Dreamland. Exercising increases your body temperature, and as you cool off after running, that change relaxes your body and preps it for rest. Voila, an easy path toward a restful sleep was in your hands—err, legs—all along!
5. Become Smarter
Fun fact: running encourages the growth of new grey matter in your brain. That’s right, you can literally expand your mind by lacing up a pair of sneakers and going for a jog. The more brain cells your body produces, the more opportunities you have to learn new things and remember important information. Plus, the rate of your learning speeds up, too. That means cramming to study for a test the night before might become a little bit easier!
While we can’t promise that running a mile every day will turn you into a Nobel Prize winner, we can say with confidence that you’ll be more alert and ready to learn than ever before. Aerobic activity increases the levels of cortisol in your body, which boosts information retention and memorization capabilities. No matter if you’re a student or a working professional, this is great news for athletes of any age!
6. Relieve Stress without Breaking Things
Smashing plates might sound like fun, but the clean-up is always a pain. Similar to how running can decrease depression, stretching your legs on a regular basis can relieve stress in a healthy way. On top of all those delicious endorphins, running basically acts as meditation in motion. The repeated motion of placing one foot in front of the other focuses your mind and helps shed any stressors you’ve experienced throughout the day.
Remember when you cried as a kid and your mom told you to take deep breaths? That technique helped calm you down during a tantrum—and the same logic applies when you run. Your elevated heart rate forces you to breathe deeply, which in turn helps calm an angry or upset mind. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, avoid the urge to break something and take it out on the pavement with a therapy session on-the-go.
7. Lose Weight
If shedding a few pounds is a goal of yours, running a mile a day can jumpstart your efforts toward a leaner silhouette. Elevating your heart rate burns calories, which then helps you burn fat and fit into those skinny jeans you’ve had your eye on. Just make sure to vary your runs with different speeds, intensities, and inclines so you’re always pushing your body to adapt to new workouts. By switching up your routine, you don’t run the risk of reaching an exercise plateau that stalls your progress toward a leaner, healthier you! To avoid injury, it’s important to give your body an off-day to recover and rebuild itself—especially if you’re just getting started on your fitness journey.
An important reminder: losing weight doesn’t always mean seeing a smaller number pop up on the scale. Muscle mass is denser than fat, which means it weighs more when you look at same-sized portions. As you add running to your regimen, it’s likely you’ll gain muscle because you’re getting stronger. As your pant size goes down, your weight might stay the same or even increase because you’re replacing fat with dense muscle. Don’t let the scale dictate your life—you’re so much more than a number!
8. Outlive Your Enemies
Even if you don’t have an arch-nemesis, we’re pretty sure you like the idea of living as long as possible. One of the most amazing benefits of running every day includes increasing your lifespan by at least three years. People who don’t exercise on a regular basis are much more likely to die at a younger age than those of you who make time for a daily jog.
One well-cited study even suggests that just five minutes of running per day can significantly improve your life expectancy. If a mile a day seems like a bit much, even a half-mile per day can stretch your lifespan by a few years. Now try and tell us you can’t make time for that!
9. Take a Stand Against Cancer
Even if you don’t consider yourself a numbers person, there’s no way you can ignore the stats on daily running and reduced cancer risk. According to medical science, if you run a mile every day, you have: 42% lower risk of esophageal cancer, 27% lower risk of liver cancer, 26% lower risk of lung cancer, 23% lower risk of kidney cancer, 16% lower risk of colon cancer, and 10% lower risk of breast cancer. Amazing, right?
And those are only a few types of cancer where risk is significantly reduced by daily exercise! Even though running isn’t a sure-fire prevention technique, it never hurts to do everything you can to stay healthy. Perhaps your training will even get you ready to run a race that benefits cancer research!
10. You’ll Have a New Hobby
If you’ve been looking for something to really get into, running could be it. Reap the benefits of water cooler talks with your fellow workplace runners about the latest and greatest shoes. Sign up for races and revel in the accomplishment of achieving goals. And, if you feel so inclined, document your new-found obsession via Instagram (and don’t forget to tag us in your running photos so we can cheer you on. Find us at @roadrunnersports).