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Running is one of the most accessible and beneficial exercises around. It can fit around the tightest of schedules, and is suitable for people of almost any age, body type, and fitness level. Small wonder, then, that there are now estimated to be more runners on English streets than cyclists. And one more thing – It’s completely free!

But what makes running just so fantastic? What are its benefits and how can it contribute to a life of better health and wellbeing? Well, let’s take a look…

Running is good for the heart

According to a study that looked at over 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100, runners are up to 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than non-runners. That’s a very significant statistic, and an encouraging reason to consider regular running as a way of developing and maintaining a healthy heart.

One of the reasons why running is so good for the heart is that it decreases your resting heart rate. This means that, during day-to-day activities, the heart isn’t working as hard and doesn’t over-exert itself.

It makes you feel good 

Ever heard of runner’s high? It’s a sort of euphoric state runners sometimes reach in the throes of a good run. A feeling of exhilaration and flow.

In the words of Jesse Pittsley, PhD, of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists, “Psychologically, runners may experience euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running.”

Talk to any runner about it, and you’ll probably find them nodding along with a happy glaze over their eyes: “Ah yes, I know the feeling. . .”

Although it’s unclear as to precisely what causes runner’s high, a popular theory is that it has something to do with the neurotransmitters (including dopamine and serotonin) secreted whilst running.

And this feel-good factor leads directly into the next point. . . .

It boosts confidence

Aside from the natural, confidence-boosting properties of feeling good about yourself, there are a number of other reasons why running is excellent for self-confidence.

There is of course the physical aspect. Not only can it change the way you look and feel on the outside, but it can have a positive effect on your internal systems as well. So, as an exercise, running can be an excellent promoter of body confidence.

There’s also the goal-oriented aspect of running. Time goals, distance goals, weight goals, and so on. Many people believe that setting and achieving goals contributes towards boosting happiness, and happiness can help us become more confident.

Then there’s the social aspect. Joining a club, making new friends, connecting with likeminded people, and being part of a community. All these factors can contribute to increased feelings of self-esteem and confidence.

Running may reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress 

Along with its mood-boosting qualities, running is also thought to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is perhaps best explained through first-hand accounts, of which there are plenty. But as a starting point, and if you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into this particular point, have a look at any or all of these very informative and revealing articles:

It’s cheap, easy, and convenient

One of the most portable pieces of workout gear around is a pair of running shoes. That’s really all you need. And the beauty of running is that you can do it almost anywhere, at anytime, completely for free.

You don’t need to join a gym to run. You don’t even need that much spare time. Even if you only have 20 minutes a day, you can put in a quick run around the block. If you’re close enough, you could even run to work, combining your daily commute with your workout routine.

Running is flexible enough that it can be tailored to multiple fitness goals. Whether you’re aiming for distance, speed, weight loss, or are running for fun, you can work it around your preferences.

Another mark of its flexibility is that running can be performed at whatever social or competitive level you desire. You can run on your own, join a non-competitive club, or get out and race. The choice is yours, and whatever you choose, you’re still getting fit and increasing your overall wellbeing, no matter what level you decide to work at. So it’s perfectly suited for both casual exercisers and the more competitive-minded.

Running may help you live longer

According to a study, runners generally “have a 25%–40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners.

Part of what makes running such a potentially powerful tool for living a longer life is that it reduces your chances of dying from just about, as one article put it, anything.

It’s even been said that running for as little as ten minutes a day can still provide the benefits associated with lower risk of disease and premature death.

Two Ted Talks on running

For a little more running inspiration, take a look at these fantastic talks by Christopher McDougall and James O’Keefe.

A few books on running

And for even more inspiration, why not take a look at the books below…

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami

Out Of Thin Air – Michael Crawley

Born To Run – Christopher McDougall

Lace up!

So what are you waiting for? If you’ve got a pair of running shoes hidden away in the back of the wardrobe why not get out and go for a jog? And it doesn’t matter if you’re new to the exercise. There are plenty of apps and programmes out there designed to help get you started. One excellent resource is the NHS Couch to 5K app, which takes you through a 9-week programme designed to get you from complete beginner to running 5 kilometres.