Running might be one of the healthiest exercises out there. Science is beginning to prove that running should have a prominent spot in your exercise routine.
Here are the top 32 health benefits of running, according to science.
#1 Running Lessens Your Risk for Endometrial Cancer
A recent study published in Cancer Causes & Control has many scientists and health professionals talking. The study states that exercising for 2 ½ hours a week reduces a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer by 34%.
Endometrial cancer starts in the cells lining the uterus. Moderate exercise, including fast walking, running, and cycling are all ways to decrease the risk of cancer because they boost circulation levels of hormones and they reduce body fat. This study applies to both women who are of a normal body weight and those who are overweight.
The results of this study clearly demonstrate that women who are active have a lower risk of developing endometrial cancer. The researchers asked 668 women who were diagnosed with endometrial cancer and 665 women without endometrial cancer about their exercise habits. They rated their habits by intensity, using a standardized scale known as the Compendium of Physical Activity.
Women who exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity rates for 150 or more minutes per week have a 34% lower risk of developing endometrial cancer than the women who led sedentary lifestyles. Women who had a body mass index of between eighteen and twenty-five who exercise for 150 minutes per week had a 73% less risk of developing endometrial cancer than women who were overweight and inactive.
Women who were overweight an exercise for the 150 minutes per week had a 52% lower risk of endometrial cancer than their counterparts who didn’t exercise.
Running can reduce your risk of endometrial cancer by 34%.
#2 Increased Physical Exercise (Running) Reduces Risks of Colorectal Cancer
Having a healthy lifestyle, such as refraining from alcohol, smoking, eating healthy, exercising, and maintaining that small waistline can go a long way when it comes to preventing colorectal cancer.
According to a new study, about 25% of colorectal cancers can be prevented by adhering to these five lifestyle recommendations. Bowel cancer is most likely a cancer where lifestyle habits have the highest impact on your risk.
In the United States alone, the National Cancer Institute has estimated that 49,190 deaths will occur from rectal and colon cancer in 2016. In 2013, it was estimated that 1,177,556 people were living with colon and rectum cancers.
According to the Danish study, the risk of colorectal cancer is lowered by physical activity for more than half an hour a day. The researchers surveyed 55,489 men and women who were between the ages of fifty and sixty-four over the course of almost ten years to learn about their lifestyle habits. By the end of the study period, 678 had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The researchers than compared how closely those who had colorectal cancer and those who didn’t have it adhered to the recommendations made by the research group. They found that if the participants adhered to all five of the recommendations, 23% of the cancer cases could have been avoided. If all of the participants had followed just one recommendation, 13% would not have developed colorectal cancer.
Therefore, getting more physical exercise by running could reduce your risk of getting colorectal cancer by 13%, even if you don’t change any of your other lifestyle habits.
#3 Running Can Reduce Your Risk of Prostate Cancer
While several studies weren’t conclusive, some findings suggested there was a link between physical activity and reduced risks of aggressive prostate cancer.
Men who exercised regularly showed a decreased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer or death from prostate cancer, compared to men who reported no physical exercise, according to a study conducted in the International Journal of Cancer in 2006.
In a 2005 study conducted with Chinese men in the European Journal of Epidemiology, it was demonstrated that moderate exercise might protect men from developing prostate cancer.
Men should personalize their exercise routine, and they should pick an activity that they enjoy doing. Focus on intensity once you’ve chosen your activity, such as running.
It’s not so much what you’re doing but how intensely you’re doing it. You can do vigorous gardening, and you’re out there working extremely hard, or you can be out running so slow you don’t get your heart rate up.
Men who want to avoid prostate cancer or increase their chances of survival if they were to develop it should make sure their heart rate is elevated as they’re running.
#4 Moderate to Vigorous Exercise Reduces the Risk of Breast Cancer
According to one study, women who have a family history of breast cancer are able to reduce their risk of about 20% if they do twenty minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least five times a week, along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle in other areas of their daily lives.
Even women who have not been very active their entire lives can bask in the anti-cancer rewards of exercising. Women who were postmenopausal and began engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise, such as running, showed changes in their protein and hormone levels that were consistent with a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Some findings have even suggested that starting an exercise program during the early years of your childhood can delay the onset of breast cancer for women who have carried a mutation in their BRCA genes. This is linked with an increased risk of the disease; however, this doesn’t prevent the disease from developing.
Women who want to reduce their risk of breast cancer should run for twenty minutes five times a week.
#5 Running Can Reduce the Risk of Lung Cancer
For those who used to smoke and those who are currently smoking, running could reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t quit if you haven’t already, but it’s a start.
The University of Minnesota researchers conducted a study where they handed out questionnaires to 36,929 cancer-free women from the state of Iowa. They followed up with these participants after sixteen years, and discovered that women who had a high exercise level were less likely to develop lung cancer than those who reported being more sedentary.
In addition, men and women who participated in moderate to vigorous activities demonstrated a reduced risk of lung cancer, especially those who has low to medium BMI’s and were non-smokers, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Running can reduce your risk of lung cancer.
#6 Running Can Reduce Women’s Risk of Ovarian Cancer
While there are some more additional studies necessary to prove this theory, some evidence has suggested there is a link between exercise and a reduced risk of cancer found in the cells on the surface of a woman’s ovaries – epithelial ovarian cancer. Women who have engaged in high-intensity activities are most often at a reduced risk of invasive ovarian cancer compared to women who report living a sedentary lifestyle.
Ovarian cancer is estrogen-dependent, so there are some viable theories to explain the protective effective physical activity can have against ovarian cancer. Physical activity influences your energy balance, moderate estrogen, and maintains a low body fat level. Central obesity has been associated with decreased levels of the sex hormone-binding globulins, and increased levels of androgens and estrogen in the bloodstream. In addition, physical activity can reduce the number of ovulatory cysts, which will reduce the risk for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer might be able to be prevented by physical exercise, such as running.
#7 Running Reduces the Risk for Gastric Cancer
Those who reported they have a moderate rate of recreational physical activity, such as running, have a fifty percent reduce risk of developing gastric cancer, according to a study conducted in 2008 and published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.
Those who exercise strenuously throughout their lives had a decreased risk of stomach cancer, according to a study published in the European Journal of Cancer in 2007. Researchers in Ontario discovered that an estimated twenty to forty percent reduce risk of stomach cancer existed for those who performed strenuous exercise more than three times per week compared to those who exercised less than once a month.
Running is able to reduce your risk of gastric or stomach cancer by anywhere from twenty to forty percent.
#8 Running Is Able to Boost Your Memory
Everyone needs a memory boost, and exercise, especially running, is able to help your mind stay sharp. Running a lap around the track can reduces your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, even for those who have a family history of the disease.
Exercise helps your memory both directly and indirectly. The benefits come directly from exercise’s capability to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, as well as stimulate the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of your brain cells, new blood cell growth in the brain, and the survival of the new brain cells.
Running is excellent for your memory and can help you stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia.
#9 Running Improves Your Outlook on Life
People who are active are more likely to see the glass as half full rather than half empty – even after they’ve finished sweating from running.
If you want to be more positive in life, then you should go out for a run.
#10 Running Can Help You with That Acne
Working up a sweat seems counterproductive to getting rid of acne because you’d think it’d clog pores up, but the act of sweating actually gets rid of all that gunk that’s clogging them. A solid sweating sessions boosts the natural oils in your skin, which keeps it healthy. If you wear makeup, remember to remove it before you work out and wash gently after you do to avoid any breakouts.
Work up a sweat with running and you could help your acne problem.
#11 Running Improves your Self-Esteem
One study discovered that people who run outside and get a good view of nature as they’re working out have an increased self-esteem after their workout. They were compared to their counterparts who had to run on a treadmill without any pleasant scenery to gaze it.
Run outside so you can have something nice to look at and improve your self-esteem at the same time.
#12 Running Helps You Improve Your Balance, Even As You Age
While too much exercise of any form is not healthy and leads to stress injuries and bone loss, older runners actually protect their knees and tendons. This means they have better balance than their non-running peers.
Running helps you keep your balance when you’re older, which means less risk of falling and breaking a hip!
#13 Running Is a Fast and Organic Way to Lower Blood Pressure
Running is one of the natural ways you can lower your high blood pressure, and it works relatively quick, too. In fact, increasing the amount you run can help lower your blood pressure in a few weeks.
Lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack by running to lower your blood pressure.
#14 Running Builds Stronger Bones
Studies demonstrate that while resistance training is a good way to build stronger bones, running can actually produce stronger bones than any other exercise. It helps build the muscle that the lower-impact workouts tend to ignore, which keeps your bones healthier as you get older.
If you want stronger bones, then go for a run instead of picking up those weights.
#15 Running Gives You an Energy Boost
While many studies demonstrate that sedentary people who begin regular exercise programs will experience an increase in energy levels, there are few studies that have quantified the effects. However, one study published in Psychological Bulletin analyzed seventy studies on exercise and fatigue that involved more than 6,800 individuals.
More than ninety percent of the studies demonstrated the same thing. People who are sedentary and complete a regular exercise program report that they have improved fatigue levels compared to those who don’t exercise. It’s a consistent effect.
The results of this study showed that regular exercise reduces fatigue and increases your energy level. The average effect was greater than the improvement obtained from stimulant medications, such as the ones used for narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Researchers say that almost every group studied, from those who were healthy to those who had chronic conditions and cancer, benefited from exercising.
If you want to have more energy, then running can actually give you a boost rather than making you feel tired.
#16 Running Can Cure Your Insomnia
A new study has concluded that those who exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, or a little over twenty minutes a day, sleep a lot better and feel more alert during the daytime hours.
A nationally representative sample of over 2,600 men and women between the ages of eighteen and eighty-five found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week provided them with a 65% improvement in sleep. Those who participated also said they felt less tired during the day compared to those who exercised less.
The study, published in the December issue of Mental Health and Physical Activity, demonstrated more evidence to growing research that shows the importance of exercise to many different health factors. Amongst adults in the United States, around 35 to 40% of the population has issues with falling sleep or with daytime fatigue.
Running for just twenty to twenty-five minutes per day can help you fall asleep, get better quality sleep, and be less tired throughout the day.
#17 Running Is Good For Your Heart
It used to be believed that running was actually bad for your heart and damaged it over time, but new studies are suggesting otherwise. A study conducted with forty-two runners and their spouses demonstrated that marathon training didn’t cancel out the aging process or longstanding bad health habits, but they did not find a relationship between the amount of time the runners were training or how fast they were running and the level of plaque in their arteries.
This indicates that the marathon training did not directly damage their hearts. Overall, the study’s data suggested that if someone is running, they’re most likely not hurting their hearts and are likely strengthening them.
And hey, not only did the runners benefit from running, but their spouses benefited, too! Spouses of runners were actually more healthy than many other people because they walked and moved around more frequently. They had robust cardiac risk profiles.
Running has been shown to be healthy for your heart, but if you don’t want to run, at least marry a runner!
#18 Running Helps Alleviate Stress
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, rather than binging on potato chips and watching your favorite television show, do something a little healthier – running. Not only will running boost the serotonin level in your brain, regular exercise can actually remodel your brain, which makes it more resistant to stress and calmer.
The mental benefits of any form of aerobic exercise have a basis in neurochemicals. Exercise will reduce the levels of your body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. In addition, it stimulates the production of endorphins, which are the chemicals in your brain that help alleviate pain in the body, as well as elevate your mood. Endorphins are responsible for what many runners refer to as a runner’s high, as well as the feelings of optimism and relaxation that come with a hard workout.
It’s much better for you if you go for a run when you’re feeling stressed because it can help you in the long-term, as well as the short-term.
#19 Running Increases Your Stamina
Running on a regular basis has been proven to improve your stamina, making your workout more productive, not to mention more enjoyable. Endurance allows you to workout at a certain pace for an extended amount of time, such as if you were going to run a marathon. There are numerous factors that combine to create your endurance profile, and two of the more important ones are lactate threshold and VO2 max. Your VO2 max is the maximum rate at which your body is able to utilize oxygen while you exercise, and is the most popular measurement of your aerobic capacity.
While endurance capability has a lot to do with your genetics, maximal oxygen intake can be improved with some targeted training. HIIT or high intensity interval training workouts have been demonstrated to do the trick in increasing your VO2 max.
However, another piece of this puzzle is your lactate threshold, or the level of exertion at which the lactate accumulates in your muscles. You can easily improve both of these measures.
In order to improve your lactate threshold and your ability to workout harder for a longer period of time, tempo runs can do the trick. Endurance athletes tend to have a higher proportion of slow-twitch muscle fiber, which helps you do things like running by using oxygen to generate more energy efficiently. Running long can train your slow-twitch muscles to fuel these workouts more efficiently and fight fatigue better.
A continuous practice of long-distance running can help convert your fast-twitch muscles to slow-twitch muscles, which helps enhance your endurance.
If you want more endurance in all areas of your life, then long-distance running can help you achieve it.
#20 Running Has Been Shown to Help You Live Longer
Amongst those who are looking to live long and those who have lived long, running has been touted as being one of the best ways you can elongate your lifespan and live a healthier life in your later years.
It’s now coming out that there is a lot of evidence to support those claims.
In fact, according to a longer term study that was conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, runners do live longer. The researchers looked closely at the impact of running on runner’s health and found that after twenty years of research, regular runners had a much lower mortality rate compared to those who didn’t run with around an eighty percent of runners still being alive, while only sixty-five percent of the non-runners being alive.
According to the research, the runners were regularly found to enjoy a longer lifespan and were found to live an average of three years longer than those who didn’t run.
So if you want to add quality years to your life, then you might want to take up running.
#21 Running Can Help You Get Rid of That Beer Belly
As you get older, the pounds tend to start tacking onto your stomach area, especially for women. However, in one study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, more than a hundred thousand runners were followed. Participants who ran more than thirty-five miles a week weighed less around their abdomen in their middle years than those who ran less than nine miles.
If you want to avoid the type of abdominal fat that’s more likely to lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, then you should run around thirty-five or more miles per week. If you break that down, it’s five miles a day. Thankfully, walking while you’re doing errands or housework does count, too!
#22 Running Helps You Increase Your Vitamin D Uptake
The human body obtains a lot of its vitamin D from sun exposure, but because we tend to spend a lot of our time inside, we miss out on obtaining most of our daily requirement. In fact, 41.6% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, according to a research article published in Nutrition Research. Running outside can change this. It helps boost your levels of vitamin D significantly, especially when you wear clothing that exposes more of your skin to the sun’s rays. However, don’t go running in extremely cold temperatures in shorts and a t-shirt, that’s also not healthy.
Running outside can get you more exposure to the sun, which means more vitamin D uptake.
#23 Running Burns a Lot of Calories
There have been many studies demonstrating that running burns more calories than walking or jogging, but not as many that were as conclusive as this one. The participants of the study were fifteen male college students and fifteen female college student who had an average weight of 156 pounds. They ran a treadmill mile in ten minutes one day, and on another day they walked a mile in eighteen minutes and thirty-six seconds. Afterward, they were informed to sit quietly for half an hour, by which time their metabolic rate had returned to normal.
The study found that running, compared to walking, burned more calories.
Running will burn more calories than walking, so pick up the pace!
#24 Running Can Fight Off the Common Cold
If you’re beginning to feel like you have a cold coming on, a thirty minute run will actually stimulate your immune system and help fight off that cold before it’s had an opportunity to take hold. In the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a study conducted had people perform aerobic activities for five days a week.
The study concluded that those who practiced the program suffered from colds 43% less than those who didn’t follow the regiment. In addition, when a runner did catch a cold, their symptoms were a lot less severe.
You can beat the common cold with just half an hour of running as soon as you feel the first symptoms.
#25 Running Strengthens Your Knees Rather than Weakening Them
It’s been a long-known fact that running increases your bone mass, and can help curtail age-related bone loss. However, odds are you have family, friends, or strangers warn you that running’s bad for those knees. Well, science has finally come up with the truth, that running is not bad for your knees. In fact, studies are showing that running can improve your knee health.
Boston University researcher David Felson has stated that they know running doesn’t cause much damage to your knees. When they looked at people who had knee arthritis, they didn’t find a previous history of running, and when they looked at runners and followed them over time, they didn’t find their risk of developing arthritis was any more than usual.
Running actually strengthens your knees instead of weakening them.
#26 Running Keeps Your Eyes Healthy
When most people think about the benefits of exercising, they most likely don’t think about their eyes. However, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2013 demonstrated that those who run an average of five or more miles per day have a forty-one percent less chance of developing cataracts, which is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness as people age.
While the exact reason has not been discovered yet, it might have to do with the fact that running reduces the likelihood of someone developing diabetes or hypertension, and both contribute to cataracts.
Running can help you avoid diseases that cause cataracts later in life.
#27 Running Improves Your Learning Skills
Exercising on a regular basis can improve your learning skills and lowers your risk of developing age-related cognitive decline. Because there is little known about the timing and the nature of the underlying mechanisms, a study looked into whether exercise had an immediate beneficial effect on learning.
Researchers assessed learning directly after sprinting, running, and a period of rest in twenty-seven healthy participants in a random testing design. The dependent variables were learning speed in less than one week and greater than eight months when it came to acquiring a novel vocabulary.
BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor was measured, as well as epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels prior and after the exercises and lessons. Vocabulary learning was twenty percent faster after an intense physical exercise compared to the other two exercises, suggesting that running or sprinting can help you learn faster.
Running helps you learn faster, especially right after a workout.
#28 Running Can Keep You Smart As You Age
If you’re worried about losing your mental faculties as you age, working out regularly can help you stay mentally healthy. A study published in December 2012 in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review demonstrates that the evidence is insurmountable that exercising on a regular basis can help defeat age-related mental decline, particularly functions such as selective attention, task switching, and working memory.
Studies have consistently reported that older adults who are fitter score better in mental tests than peers who were unfit. What’s more, in those who have had a stroke, regular exercise improves language, memory, judgment issues, and thinking by about fifty percent. The research team discovered that significant improvements in overall brain function happen at the end of the study, with the most improvement being in concentration, attention, organizing, and planning.
As you’re aging, running can help you stay mentally fit.
#29 Running Can Help Fight Depression
In a study published in ACSMs Health and Fitness Journal in 2013, participants were asked to exercise in order to improve depression. The study demonstrated that exercise is an effective treatment for depression, so much so that it improves symptoms as well as psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Observational studies have suggested that those who are active are less likely to be depressed, and interventional studies have suggested that exercise is beneficial when it comes to reducing depression symptoms.
It appears that even the lowest exercise levels are associated with improvements in depression symptoms, and while most studies have focused on aerobic exercises, several studies have found that resistance training is just as effective. While the best dose of exercise isn’t yet known, clearly any is better than none.
Running can stave off depression, as well as treat clinically depressed patients.
#30 Running Alleviates Alzheimer’s disease Symptoms
In a new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, it was discovered that running can reverse cognitive declines because of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the effect the twelve-week treadmill program had on mice that had early and advanced stages of the disease, the researchers discovered.
That’s good news for the more than five million Americans who are affected by this disease. While it’s not a new disease, it’s recently attained the attention it deserves.
#31 Running Sheds Those Pounds
This is one of the main reasons people exercise, and it’s still one of the most common reasons people start running to begin with. Running helps you lose those extra pounds and maintain a healthier weight. In fact, someone who’s two hundred pounds can burn more than nine hundred calories per hour. That’s a lot of calories! In addition, research has demonstrated that running increases that after burn, or what’s called excess post oxygen consumption, or EPOC. This is the amount of calories you burn after you’ve worked out.
Running is also a much superior form of cardio exercise when you’re trying to lose weight. According to research from the Medical College of Wisconsin, those who run at a hard exertion level burn off almost eight hundred calories an hour, which is more than a stair climber, stationary bike, or a rowing machine.
Eating a healthier diet and running will help you lose weight much quicker than if you were to eat a healthier diet alone, or even if you were to use a stationary bike, stair climber, or a rowing machine.
#32 Runners Actually Hear Better
According to researchers at Bellarmine University in Kentucky, running increases the blood flow to the ears, which results in an improve hearing.
In Dr. Paul Loprinzi’s study 1,082 adult women participated, and it was discovered that those who had a higher cardiorespiratory fitness had a better hearing function at high and low frequencies compared to those who were not as fit. Women who had higher aerobic fitness exercises were six percent more likely to have good hearing than bad.
Running can actually improve your hearing, which is a good thing for those who are aging!
Running had so many benefits it’s difficult to list them all in one article. While running isn’t a new, fancy exercise for people to try out, it’s still a tried and true aerobic exercise that can keep you healthy, as well as ward off future health problems when you’re older. So for your future self, get out there and run a few miles a week!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.