Running improves your overall fitness and is a great cardio workout. It can also make you feel amazing — that feeling of euphoria you get after an intense bout of exercise is called a ‘runner’s high’.
But did you know that running could also relieve stress and depression, and it’s been scientifically proven to help you live longer? And perhaps best of all, it’s free.
Here are five reasons why you should add running to your fitness routine.
1. Running makes you live longer
According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), those who run regularly have a life expectancy three years longer than their sedentary counterparts and four years longer than smokers.
And in the Copenhagen City Heart Study, it was discovered that after keeping tabs on 20,000 Danish runners since 1975, they lived around six years longer than non-runners. It also showed that those who ran at around 8km/h two to three times a week (totalling 1-2.4 hours) reduced mortality the most.
2. Running can improve major health conditions
According to the JACC study, people who run regularly have a 30% lower risk of death from all causes and a whopping 45% from cardiovascular disease. Running has repeatedly been proven to reduce the risk of some cancers and diabetes, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Begin slowly and steadily — the heart is the hardest-working muscle in the body, so it’s important to look after it. Watches and bands that monitor heart rate and are invaluable here and a safe way to assist.
3. Running gives you bundles of energy
HIIT and resistance/weight training should be a component of your weekly training routine, but there’s overwhelming evidence that running will help you get in the best shape of your life and make you feel 10 years younger. It’s all about stamina.
Running stamina doesn’t just help you run, it will also help get you through long days at work and leave you with enough energy to do fun activities in the evenings and on the weekends.
Runners also know that when you have fantastic conditioning, no matter your age, you leap out of bed and feel like you can take on the world. Scientists have found links between moderate to intense exercise and brain chemicals called endocannabinoids (that infamous runner’s high). This suggests it’s more than a euphoric endorphin rush you get from a hard run.
4. Running can reduce stress and depression
During the late autumn and winter months, some people can be affected by a temporary depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is often attributed to a lack of sunshine. This leads to low energy, a lack of interest in activities you enjoy and weight gain.
Running outdoors in the sun can help combat all of these symptoms. It will keep weight gain to a minimum and/or lead to fat loss, it will boost your energy levels, plus it can be a very sociable activity, too.
Running eradicates stress and can even help relieve insomnia. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that just 30 minutes of running each week boosted mood and concentration during the day and quality of sleep at night.
The same study showed regularly morning runners also had lower levels of sleepiness during the day, while those who ran later in the evening had less difficulty sleeping.
5. Runners make better partners
Research released from Cambridge University suggests that men who regularly run long distances should also win in the evolutionary battle to reproduce.
A study of 542 runners at the Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham found that those who finished the fastest were more likely to have high testosterone, stronger sex drives and higher sperm counts.
This story originally appeared in Fitness First magazine.