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3 Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Benefits of Running

running

Why run? It’s a question that I spent more than a decade asking.

I began asserting my willful stubbornness against running in middle school gym class. As a bookish, non-athletic know-it-all (let’s just come out and say it—I was a nerd), I came up with a variety of rationalizations for why running was a thing to be avoided at all costs. First of all, it made you sweat. Then there was the potential for shin splints and side-aches. Of course there was always the youthful fear of not being able to measure up to the others, of being too slow, or not being able to run far enough. The whole thing made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t like it one bit.

As I got older, I lost a lot of my boyhood concerns over running, and while I began developing inclinations toward a healthier lifestyle, I still found more excuses not to run. There wasn’t enough time in the day, or I couldn’t afford a good set of running shoes, or whatever. Something always came up.

Then about three years ago I made the decision to go for it and make time in my life for running. I was beginning to realize that—contrary to what I wanted to believe—I was getting older, and the state of my health was getting more important to me. For me, this way of thinking was nothing short of revolutionary, and what began as a series of three-minutes sessions of huffing and puffing and wondering how often 26-year-olds have heart attacks soon developed into a comprehensive workout routine.

For me, my adventure into health, fitness, and an overall sense of well being began with the decision to run, and today my life is completely different. Why run? Here are a few reasons with which you are probably more-or-less familiar, and a few that you might not expect.

What We All Know: Running is Good For You, Duh

Pretty much everyone has some understanding of the obvious benefits of running.

Running is a great way to shed a few pound or maintain weight. It’s an efficient, convenient method of burning calories, second only to cross-country skiing in terms of calories burned per minute.

  • Improved overall health.

Running and other cardio exercises strengthen the muscles in your heart and give it the ability to pump more blood. It also helps to reduce the effects of asthma and diabetes, and it improves lung function, among many other things.

  • Disease prevention.

Running helps prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, and many forms of cancer.

So running improves your physical health, but what else does it do?

A Few Unexpected Benefits of Running

  • A stable mood and mind.

Running is an incredible method of combating depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and a variety of other conditions. Even if you’re feeling so depressed or anxious that you don’t want to leave your bed, get out and go for a run. I promise that with just a few moments you’ll start to feel more leveled out. That’s because running causes the brain to secrete a wide range of oh-so-wonderful hormones that benefit your mood. Ever heard of a runner’s high? That’s what I’m talking about.

This was a big one for me. Running helped improve my confidence for a number of reasons. First of all, I achieved a number of goals pertaining to my speed, distance, and running time, which provided a huge sense of accomplishment. And as I lost a bit of weight and toned up, I began to feel more confident in my appearance, which was something that I didn’t even know I had an issue with until it started to improve. Finally, running gives me a highly satisfying sense that I’m doing something positive for myself, and that my health and capability are within my control.

  • Sharpen the mind.

If I wake up and I’m feeling a little bit groggy, nothing sharpens me up and gets my mind working like going for a run. And talk about a hangover cure! It might sound like the last thing you want to do after a night of hard boozing, but trust me—10 minutes on the treadmill and your hangover is finished. Research has also shown that regular exercise helps prevent mental decline as you age. So running helps you “keep it together” today, and it will keep you from “losing it” tomorrow.

Bottom line—running delivers a comprehensive range of body-mind benefits. With such an effective method of improving both your mental and physical health, the question you should be asking yourself isn’t “Why run?”, but instead, “Why not?” You’ll be hard pressed to find a valid answer.

Can you think of any benefits that I haven’t listed here? Or do you have a reason why you don’t think running is right for you? Or maybe you simply want to share your inspirational running story? Join the conversation by commenting below. We could all use a bit of motivation.