First a disclaimer: we love the gym. We love strength training with free weights and exercise machines. There are tons of good reasons to lift weights, whether you want to build muscle, lose fat and calories, or just improve your overall health. But the benefits of running make a pretty strong argument for anyone considering becoming a runner.
Running is very popular, and there are all sorts of ways to do it, from jogging around the neighborhood to trail running to signing up for a run. After a break due to the pandemic, organized running events are again attracting great interest. According to the Strava Year in Sport report, the number of Strava users who ran a marathon nearly doubled in 2022 compared to 2021. From the aesthetic benefits to the mental benefits, there's a reason so many people are addicted to pavement running.
While we're not saying you should quit the gym (please don't), we're saying you should also consider taking up running. Here are 25 running perks to consider.
25 running perks you need to know
1. Running can help you live longer
Runners live longer than those who don't. In a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers followed about 1,000 adults (ages 50 and older) over the age of 21. At the end of the study, 85 percent of the runners were still kicking, while only 66 percent of the non-runners were alive. whoops
2. Running can get you high
The runner's high is real: Mounting research, including a study published in Experimental Technology, shows that when we run, our brains release endocannabinoids, cannabis-like molecules that keep runners happy and addicted.
3. Running doesn't require a commute
Getting to and from the gym can take up 30 minutes of your day on top of the time you actually spend exercising. But as soon as you step out your front door, you can run, says Erik Moen, PT, founder of Corpore Sano Physical Therapy in Washington. After all, you spend enough time in the car. Also: Running can be your way to work!
4. Running wards off beer bellies
As you get older, the pounds have a way of clinging to your belly. But in a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study of more than 100,000 runners, those who ran 35 or more miles per week gained less weight in their bellies during their middle years than those who ran fewer than nine.
5. Running can help you get vitamin D
The human body gets most of its vitamin D from sun exposure, but since people spend all their time indoors, you know how to do it. That explains why, according to a study published in Nutrition Research, 41.6 percent of Americans are deficient in the vitamin. Running outside can boost your levels to ward off depression, prevent type 2 diabetes, and strengthen your bones.
6. Running burns crazy calories
“An average hour-long strength workout at the gym burns about 300 calories. A typical hour-long run burns about twice as much,” explains American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer Tammie Dubberly, a running coach at Whole Body Fitness in Portland, OR.
Meanwhile, in a study from the Medical College of Wisconsin and VA Medical Center, researchers found that the treadmill (used at a "hard" level) burned an average of 705 to 865 calories in an hour. The stair climber, rower, and stationary bike all burned far fewer calories.
7. Running doesn't require a lot of equipment
"If you've got shoes, shorts and a shirt, you're good to go," says Jason Fitzgerald, a US track and field-certified trainer and founder of Strength Running. "You can't say that about many other workouts."
machines, dumbbells or even mats required.
Westend61 on Offset/Shutterstock
8. You can run anywhere
Running takes you much further than the four walls of your gym.
“You can run anywhere in the world. There are literally races in Antarctica and the Sahara,” says Fitzgerald.
OK, most runners won't go that far. But it does mean a weekend getaway won't ruin your workout routine.
9. You can run at any time
The sidewalks are never blocked. Whether you want to work out at 2 a.m. or 2 a.m., you can do it, says Moen.
10. Your dog can walk with you
Dogs are not normally welcome in the gym. But they are at home on the trail. They even get endocannabinoid-fueled runner's highs similar to those of their two-legged friends, according to a University of Arizona study.
11. Running makes you an energizer bunny
"Running is such a great cardiovascular workout that it doesn't tire you out as quickly from a certain workload," says Fitzgerald. "For example, if I'm helping a friend move, I can carry boxes all day and it's not a big deal."
12. Running strengthens your bones
Unlike any other aerobic workout you can do at the gym, running is highly effective, which means it works and rebuilds your bones along with your muscles.
"Swimming, cycling, and working out on the elliptical trainer don't work your bones," says Fitzgerald. "If that's the only thing you do, you're at risk for weak bones and osteoporosis."
Spectral Design / Shutterstock
13. Running helps you achieve your goals
“Running makes you very goal-oriented. You're always trying to reach new PRs, and you know you can't just surpass your goal in one day. It takes time, work and persistence,” says Fitzgerald.
This mindset and practicing working toward running goals can pay dividends when it comes to achieving other professional, financial, and personal goals.
14. Running makes you stubborn
"Running builds tenacity and mental toughness that carries over into every area of your life," says Fitzgerald. If you can go 26 miles in a marathon or stick to a weekly running routine, you'll be better equipped to meet any challenges that come your way.
15. Running fights colds
"When you're feeling sick, a brisk 30-minute run can stimulate the immune system to fight off a cold before it gets a chance," says Fitzgerald.
In a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who engaged in aerobic activity at least five days a week were 43 percent less likely to develop upper respiratory tract infections than those who engaged in less aerobic activity. Additionally, when runners caught a cold, their symptoms were much less severe.
16. Running is perfect for any fitness level
Maybe you can't just get into Olympic lifting. But you can wake up one morning and decide to go for your first run, says Janet Hamilton, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at Running Strong in Atlanta. Plus, decades later, you won't outgrow it. You can customize each running workout so it never plateaus.
Basic Image / Shutterstock
17. Running is social
"These days, gyms seem to be quieter than libraries," says Dubberly. But on the trail everyone talks. Whether you run with a buddy or join a running club, this sport is all about community. And happy hour after the run.
18. Running is meditative
More of a solo trainer? That's cool. "Running can be a time to focus on your own thoughts," says ultrarunner Sarah Evans, CPT, personal trainer and running coach in San Francisco.
19. Running is never the same
Contrary to what non-runners might think, every run is different and doesn't have to be boring. You can mix it up in so many ways, from hill running, tempo runs, intervals, or blending between road and trail.
20. You were made to run
"Running is the best form of exercise because it's the most basic human form of exercise, where you use your own body, your weight and both of your legs to propel you forward," says Evans. It's as functional as workouts.
21. Running lifts your spirits
Runner's highs aside, running can boost your mood throughout the day. For example, a 2012 study from Switzerland found that just 30 minutes of running every morning for three weeks significantly improved sleep quality, as well as mood and focus throughout the day.
22. Running is an excuse to eat carbs
And not just "healthy" carbohydrates from whole grains. We're talking about sophisticated pasta, white bread and biscuits. Simple, fast-acting carbohydrates are runners' best fuel, and increasing your intake - strategically - can help you run better and recover faster, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Some runners even eat Skittles on their long runs to stay energized, Hamilton says.
23. It strengthens your knees
, running won't break your knees. It does exactly the opposite. Research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that running (even marathons!) reduces the risk of knee osteoarthritis. That may be because running increases the flow of nutrients to the cartilage in your knee while also strengthening the ligaments around the joint.
24. Running can overwhelm your heart
"Running is primarily an aerobic sport," says Fitzgerald. By training your body's aerobic (oxygen-sucking) metabolism, it strengthens your heart while lowering your resting heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. And guess what? According to a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, aerobic exercise is by far the most time-efficient form of exercise to improve your heart health.
25. It keeps your eyes healthy
When most men think about the benefits of exercise, they probably don't think about their vision. But a 2013 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that people who walk an average of five miles or more a day have a 41 percent reduced risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of age-related vision loss and blindness. The exact reason for this has yet to be discovered, but it could have to do with running reducing your chances of developing high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, both of which can contribute to cataracts.
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