13 Science-Backed Reasons To Lace Up For Global Running Day
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
Oh, running. So beneficial and so challenging, yet so controversial. One person might say that running can mess up your knees, make you gain weight, or permanently injure you if you're not wearing the right shoes—and another will say the opposite. We could debate the science behind and benefits of running for years (and we have), but today is Global Running Day and that feels like something to celebrate.
So many people have found solace and purpose through running, each bearing their own story of determination, triumph, and betterment. Whether you're new to running or a seasoned trotter, running has a lot to offer anyone who is open to it.
Not convinced? We hope these 13 studies that underscore the benefits of running change that. Happy Global Running Day everyone!
1. Running can reduce your stress (and make you resistant to it).
Exercise can be a powerful stress-buster, and running is no exception. What's more? Regular exercise can actually make you more resistant to stress, meaning it lessens the impact stress has on you. According to this study, "Exercise training recruits a process which confers enduring resilience to stress," and we can't speak for you, but we'll do anything to stress less.
2. Running can fend off depression.
Perhaps the most powerful benefit of exercise is its ability to improve, or even transform, our mental health. Many studies, including this one, have shown that physical exercise is a potent and effective treatment for symptoms of anxiety and depression. That's not to say that it should be the only treatment, but given that the U.S. has 40 million adults struggling with anxiety disorders, running can be a literal step toward finding your balance and feeling better.
3. Running can improve your memory.
To reiterate a statistic we've seen before: By the year 2050, the U.S. will have 14 million people in need of full-time care for Alzheimer's disease—so the more we can do to preserve our brain health, the better. Research has shown that running increases neurogenesis (the production of new neurons in the brain) in the hippocampus, an area critical for memory. Are you lacing up your shoes yet? (If not, keep reading.)
4. Running is good for your bones.
We often hear that running puts a lot of strain on our bones, which is true, but what we don't hear is that the strain can actually improve our long-term bone health. In fact, a study from the European Society of Endocrinology found running improves our bone health more than non-weight-bearing activities like cycling.
"The everyday man and woman need to exercise moderately to maintain health," said Giovanni Lombardi, lead author of the study. "However, our findings suggest that those at risk of weaker bones might want to take up running rather than swimming or cycling."
5. Running can improve your knee health. (Yeah, seriously.)
6. And if you already have knee inflammation, running can reduce it.
We've long thought that running causes inflammation, but a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that, like other types of exercise, running can create an anti-inflammatory environment in the body. This can benefit our joints long-term and even "delay the onset of joint degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis." In other words, running can reduce joint inflammation. Who knew!
7. Running can improve our sleep.
Developing a regular exercise routine can improve your quality and quantity of sleep—that we know. So it follows that running, too, can help us get more shut-eye. Researchers at John Hopkins Center For Sleep confirmed that moderate aerobic exercise "increases the amount of slow-wave sleep you get" and can "stabilize your mood and decompress the mind—a cognitive process important for naturally transitioning to sleep." Yeah, sign us up for that.
8. Running yields better health outcomes.
This study found that people who start running tend to lose weight if they're overweight to begin with, and those who run regularly maintain a healthy weight. Both of these outcomes can play a role in us or others achieving optimal health, so we'd call that a win for team running.
9. Running can slow aging (and keep us alive).
Behold! The all-natural fountain of youth you've been looking for: running. A study from the Stanford University School of Medicine discovered that older runners had fewer disabilities, a longer life span, and were half as likely to die an early death when compared to aging non-runners. They also found that running slowed cardiovascular deaths and was associated with fewer deaths from neurological disease, infections, and even cancer. In short: Consider us runners for life.
10. Running decreases our risk of heart disease.
Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is still the leading cause of death in the United States—so whatever we can do to prevent it, you can bet we're doing it. Running strengthens out cardiovascular system, and in turn lessens our likelihood of developing heart disease. Longer-distance runners in particular have more efficient hearts than those of sedentary people—another reason to literally go the extra mile.
11. Running increases productivity.
12. Running may help prevent some cancers.
The search for ways to prevent and treat cancer is of course ongoing, but as it stands, there is evidence supporting the claim that increased physical activity can decrease our risk of certain types of cancers, most convincingly breast and colon cancers. More research needs to be done, but researchers note that evidence is accumulating—nearly 170 observational epidemiologic studies have drawn a correlation, and more are sure to come.
13. Lastly, running can decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes affects about 27 million Americans, and millions more are at risk for it. Unlike type 1, many cases of type 2 diabetes can be managed (to some degree) through lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet and exercising. Last year, a study done by the University of Birmingham found that increased physical activity, like walking, jogging, and running, was linked to decreased risk of type 2 diabetes in at-risk individuals. So grab a friend and go for a jog. Your future self will be glad you did.
The take-aways here are simple: Give running a try—there are too many benefits not to.
And if you need somewhere to start, here's what we recommend.