5 Unexpected Health Benefits of Running

The year was 1987. The class — 9th grade physical education. All week long I dreaded Friday’s activity. We were going to run the mile. I’d never run a mile in my life and I didn’t care to. As far as I was concerned, running was an activity for stronger, tougher kids who didn’t mind side cramps and shin splints.

Friday came and I conveniently forgot my P.E. clothes. I sat on the bleachers with two other girls who apparently suffered from similar short-term memory loss. Watching the other freshmen run around the track, I smugly proclaimed, “I will never run.”

Twenty-three years later, I had to eat my words.

In 2010, at a 5k for my children’s school, I ran. It was cold. It was rainy. And, the prospect of spending an hour walking in those conditions spurred me on. With every step I thought to myself, “The sooner I finish, the sooner I’ll be warm and dry.”

So, for a few minutes at a time, I huffed and puffed my way down the road. My side ached. My shins burned. But, when I crossed the finish line, I was filled with a soaring feeling of accomplishment. I’ve been running ever since.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve discovered many benefits of running. The following five caught me somewhat by surprise.

Benefits of Running

1. Running makes my daily tasks easier.

After several months of regular running, the strength and endurance I gained began to pay off in ways I didn’t expect. Carrying loads of laundry up and down the stairs was less tiring. I could mow the front and back yards without having to take a break in between. I could vacuum my floors more quickly. Any activity that required cardiovascular endurance was considerably easier.

2. Running gives my skin a healthy glow.

When I return from a run, I’m a sweaty mess. No one wants to be around me until I’ve hit the shower. But, the same perspiration that drives my family away also removes toxins and cleanses my skin.

3. Running boosts my confidence.

Licensed psychologist Marci Fox writes for Psychology Today that, “Reaching for goals is an important part of strengthening self-confidence.” I’ve found this to be true with setting and achieving running goals.

I’ll never forget the first time I ran 3 miles in less than 30 minutes. This isn’t a fast pace, but it was a goal I had been striving to achieve for months. When I reached that milestone, I felt strong, capable, and confident. This one small success inspired me to set more challenging time and distance goals for myself.

4. Running motivates me to eat a nutritious diet.

Feeling strong and setting goals for myself as a runner encourages me to take the best possible care of my body. When I eat fat-laden foods, full of sugar and preservatives, I don’t run my best. On the flip side, when I eat meals rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, I have the energy I need to run well.

5. Running improves my mood.

When I’m feeling stressed out by the demands of life, a short run helps lift my spirits. Researchers have linked the mood-boosting properties of exercise to the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain and an increase in body temperature, which can have a calming effect. Whatever the cause, when I run regularly, I’m a more pleasant person to be around.

Like any exercise done consistently over a period of time, running provides a wealth of benefits. What benefits do you enjoy from your fitness program?