We all know running is supposed to be great for your body. Sure, the exercise burns calories, it strengthens cardiovascular health, and might help you live longer, and sometimes it just sounds like a virtuous thing to do. But what are some lesser-known benefits of running?
Story: Dave Essinger
Running raises your metabolism.
After any brisk workout, energy levels remain elevated. Some experts think a morning workout especially boosts the metabolism, but whenever the time is right for you, you can count on feeling a little more awake and focused after a short run.
Running is great for brain health.
Recent research suggests distance running particularly increases release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF enhances neurogenesis, the process by which your brain generates new neurons. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the latest science shows your brain can and does create new cells—and running helps it do that.
Running makes you better at running.
Your body responds to repeated exercise by getting better at that exercise, with the effect that, the more you run, the easier it gets. Psychologically, we love achieving a difficult goal, whether it’s qualifying for the Boston Marathon or finishing your local 5K. Structured training delivers a reliable return, and how often in the rest of life can we expect that kind of guaranteed result?
Because it’s hard.
Maybe it’s raining or it’s 90 degrees or there’s horizontal sleet. Or maybe you’re just simply not feeling like it, but if you lace up your shoes and go for that run anyway, and that’s the hardest part of your day, it’s got to make everything else feel a little bit easier! The hard days prove you can do it, which helps with any task or difficulty. Both stubbornness and patience are cultivated qualities.
Getting outside is good for you.
Being in nature has measurable beneficial effects. According to contemporary Japanese preventive medicine, shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”—spending mindful time in natural surroundings—lowers blood pressure and bolsters the immune system. Even in major metropolitan areas, there’s usually a park or trail nearby, and a dose of natural scenery can make any run or any day a little bit better.
Runners are fun people.
Look for local running clubs. Most are very open to beginners, and group runs can help with motivation and accountability. Also, running clubs are social groups—stick around after the run. Runner’s high is a real thing, at least if you ask a runner after his or her run. Here’s one time you can invariably expect a group of people all in a good mood, and your local running scene is one of the more positive communities to be found.
You can’t always win at life, just like you won’t win every race you may run. Every day, though, millions of people lace up and go for a run anyway, for the reasons listed above or for their own reasons. What are some of yours?