The Top 9 Reasons to Start Running

Sport & Activity

Whether you want to boost your mood, grow your social circle, get outside or run your first race, running can offer a host of benefits outside of weight loss alone.

Last updated: 27 April 2022
7 min read
The Top 9 Benefits of Running

It's no secret that exercise can be a catalyst for weight loss. But with so many different workouts to try, the question is, how do you choose the best one? If you're looking for a simple, inexpensive, effective and fat-blasting (if that's what you're going for) option, why not consider running?

Here are nine reasons why running may be the best exercise for your goals. Then, don't miss How to Maintain the Right Heart Rate During and After Exercise!

Running is an accessible sport and can be budget friendly

Running is one of the few workouts that's equipment free, excluding all the cool shoes to try, of course. No gym membership is required, you don't need to hire a trainer or a coach (though sometimes that can be helpful) and you don't have to buy any other pricey training tools.

Even better, you can run just about anywhere and at any time that feels safe. Running is something you can do while on holiday, during your lunch break, in the morning, evening—you name it. Stuck inside due to the weather? Consider running up and down the stairs for a high-intensity session or hitting the treadmill.

Running helps scorch calories

Did you know that not all runs are created equal? In fact, running for longer periods of time doesn't always equate to more calories burned. Running for miles on end also doesn't imply that you'll build more lean muscle mass either, which is key for calorie burning. Studies have even shown that running can help to increase your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn while resting.

Running at high intensities (like speed-interval training) can even create an afterburn effect, which means you burn more calories after your training is complete. In fact, it's most ideal to have a mix of steady-state, longer runs and faster, shorter runs and workouts if you're trying to improve your physical fitness.

The Top 9 Benefits of Running

Running can help reduce belly fat

Running workouts can help reduce visceral fat, aka the fat stored deep within the abdomen. While having some belly fat is healthy (and varies on your age and sex), having too much visceral fat is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. And sure, you can do a few hundred crunches or do planks for days, but while building muscle in your core is smart for many reasons, it doesn't necessarily help you blast belly fat.

Running, on the other hand, is a great way to burn calories and reduce fat all over your body, but especially from your midsection. In fact, a review of studies published in 2013 concluded that aerobic sessions of moderate-to-high intensity (like running) have the "highest potential" to reduce belly fat.

There are endless variations of running workouts

One of the perks of running is that it's a versatile form of exercise, meaning you never have to do the same workout twice. There are many different types of runs—each can have a positive impact on your fitness. For example, if you have less time to do a workout, knocking out a few sprints at a local track or on the pavement is both an effective and time-efficient solution. Based on what's available to you, hill repeats are another optimal way to get the most out of your workout.

If you're looking to relax or clear your head, you might head out for a longer, leisurely paced run. Whether you're training for a race or jogging simply for the joy of it, running can be modified into a range of workouts.

Running can help regulate hunger levels

You've probably heard that starting an exercise programme can increase hunger, or maybe you've experienced it first hand. In fact, there's science to back it up—some studies have shown appetite increases when you start a new fitness programme. But other research suggests that hunger hormones and food intake can decrease after going for a run.

For instance, one study involved a group of treadmill runners who participated in either a 105-minute treadmill run or a period of rest. Researchers found that study participants experienced lower levels of hunger hormones and reduced overall appetite after participating in the running-based workout as compared to the rest period. And another study performed on distance runners found that participating in a 20K run helped reduce hunger hormone levels and overall food intake.

However, bear in mind that despite feeling less hungry, you still need to fuel your body so that your muscles can recover, as well as to maintain energy levels and prevent injury. Research has shown that adequate dietary intake of the three key macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein) is imperative for reducing the risk of injury. So, even though your hunger levels may be suppressed, it's still critical that you eat food.

Running may help improve sleep quality

Getting enough sleep is critical for your overall health, and can even support weight-loss efforts. For example, one study showed that getting high-quality sleep can increase your chances of weight-loss success by 33 percent. Having a strong sleep/wake cycle (or circadian rhythm) is imperative for getting a regular good night's sleep, and research has shown that exercise can help to improve yours.

For instance, if you're a morning runner, your body's rhythm is likely to respond. Some research has shown that a regular early morning run is best for improving the quality of your sleep. But it's not just in the morning; running at any hour can help, especially if you make it a routine. Afternoon exercise can help your body to release melatonin earlier to facilitate sleep, and evening exercise can improve sleep quality as long as it is not too intense.

Running boosts your mood

There are many ways that running can boost your mood. First, completing a run provides a sense of accomplishment. However far, however fast or however many miles you ran, you can be proud of taking that run.

Also, running helps your body release mood-boosting endorphins. Endorphins are a type of hormone that can help to reduce the impact of pain, reduce stress levels, and increase feelings of calmness and pleasure. Endorphins are the key chemical responsible for prompting a runner's high—that feeling of euphoria that comes after finishing a longer run.

The Top 9 Benefits of Running

Running can be a source of social support

For some, running is a solo sport. You might be the type of runner who uses miles to reflect. But if you're trying to lose weight, finding a running buddy or group can improve accountability and provide a source of support during your weight-loss journey. That support can not only increase your chances of weight-loss success, but can also strengthen the chances of keeping that weight off once you've dropped it.

Running provides a wealth of other health benefits

Aside from keeping you in shape and keeping your mind healthy, running can improve your overall health in many other ways. Here are just some of the potential health benefits that could come from regular physical activity (including running) that have been documented in studies published over the last decade:

Bear in mind that you don't have to run every day to potentially reap these benefits. In fact, it's smart to do cross-training activities, such as strength training or swimming, on your off days to keep your body balanced and healthy.

RELATED: What Are the Benefits of Swimming?

Connect with others in a running group in person, online or through a running app to get started on the path to reach your goals, whether they entail weight loss or not. Download the Nike Run Club App today!

The Top 9 Benefits of Running

Nike Run Club

Listen to the Guided Runs in the Nike Run Club App and run with some of the best coaches and athletes, like Eliud Kipchoge, Shalane Flanagan and Mo Farah. Our Guided Runs give you the guidance you need to listen to your body, adapt to your training plan and become your own best coach.

Originally published: 14 March 2022

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