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The Ultimate List of Reasons to Run

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Runners. Give us half a chance and we’ll bombard you with a thousand and one reasons to run. And how can you blame us? Because where else will you find an activity so simple, yet powerful enough to change the lives of millions?

So just in case you’re at a loss for words when proclaiming your love for running (and we know you’re not), here is the ultimate list of reasons to run. Feel free to add your own points!

1. It helps with weight management.

Six years after initially surveying 15,237 walkers and 32,216 runners, P.T. Williams conducted a follow-up study in 2012. In this study, Williams focused on how the amount of walking or running did by participants changed, and how this affected their weight. Williams found that an increase in energy burned through running lead to a significantly greater weight loss than the same increase of energy burned through walking. Also, for the heaviest study participants, calories burned through running resulted in 90% more weight loss than calories burned through walking. It is speculated that this phenomenon is caused by running’s “afterburn” effect, as well as the tendency of hard running sessions to suppress the appetite.

2. It improves your mental well-being.

In addition to causing that better-than-good post-run feeling, running also offers a wide range of other mental perks. It has been scientifically proven that regular aerobic exercise may increase the size of the hippocampus, or the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. The positive impact of running on the latter processes happens both directly, through the impact of running on a number of physiological processes, and indirectly, through promoting better sleep and relieving stress and anxiety.

Speaking of stress and anxiety, if you’re suffering more severely from one of these conditions, running might be just what the doctor ordered to help you manage it. A 2012 study published in Sports Medicine found that physical activity may play a vital role in managing mild to moderate cases of depression and anxiety. Running is, of course, not a sole cure for these conditions. All mental ailments should be treated under the guidance of a suitably qualified specialist.

3. It increases your longevity.

Not surprising to many, a 2012 study published in PLOS Medicine concluded that engaging in physical activity during your spare time leads to a lower risk of death. And while this is wonderful news, it gets even better. This study also showed that running can lower the risk of mortality in absolutely anyone, including smokers, cancer survivors and heart patients. It also showed that even those exercising less than the recommended minimum can decrease their risk of mortality through physical activity.

4. It assists you through the different phases of life.

Whether it be through helping you to shed some post-pregnancy weight, grieving the loss of a loved one, or tackling the challenges of menopause or PMS, running can help you deal with the different phases of life.

Many a new mom have, in a bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived state, listed running as one of the things that kept them sane through this challenging phase. Because not only does running allow new moms to take a quick break from their world of diapers, teething and laundry galore, but it allows them to practice self-care in the process. Not to mention helping them squeeze in some me-time to regroup and refresh.

And so it is for many other life phases. Struggling with PMS? Running has been scientifically proven to help relieve some of the symptoms associated with that time of the month. Menopause getting you down? Running has been proven to reduce the occurrence of hot flushes and promote better sleep. And so the list goes on.

5. It benefits your family.

And if you think that running only benefits the runner, think again.

The findings of a study presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in 2013 indicated that babies of moms who exercised during pregnancy showed signs of increased brain development. And while the exact mechanism behind this is unsure, it is speculated that some of the chemicals produced by an active mom-to-be eventually makes its way into the offspring’s bloodstream.

And it’s not only our children that benefit from our running habits. A 2014 study by a team from the University of Hartford found that the cardiac benefits of marathon training may be transferable. More so than generally found in other sedentary individuals, the spouses of marathon runners showed robust cardiac profiles and moved about more frequently.

6. It broadens your horizons.

Whether it be through taking you to new and exotic places, or introducing you to runner friends from different backgrounds, running will broaden your horizons.

One of the beauties of a race is that it’s a great equalizer. You’ll toe the starting line with the rich and the poor, graduates and the illiterate, the overweight and the skinny and just about every viewpoint on faith, sexual orientation and politics out there. Yet in that moment, you’ll all be one. You’ll be a singlet-and-spandex-wearing tribe, sharing what you love and supporting each other where you can. You will pass water cups on to new-found comrades, high-five fellow strugglers and embrace sweat-covered strangers after crossing the finish line. And no-one can return home unchanged after that.

A Word of Caution: Always Add a Footnote When Sharing

And while each of these reasons to run are truly remarkable, it’s a good idea to paint the complete picture when sharing your love for running with non-running friends. Because the risk of singing running’s praises doesn’t lie in boring your sedentary audience to death. No. It lies in creating the expectation that a handful of runs will instantly erase someone’s problems. And we all know that it won’t.

Those first few runs are horrible. For everyone. It takes time, commitment and a sensible approach to running to start unlocking its perks, one by one. Just like a video game with numerous levels, you have to keep at it in order to progress and benefit. And it’s definitely not always easy. In fact, it often sucks. But keeping at it will eventually turn you into a true convert. For better or for worse.

So next time you rave about the benefits of running, be sure to add a little footnote. Because yes, there are a million really good reasons to run. Way more than what we’ve listed here. Some of them are mind-blowing, and others more subtle. But you can only truly start experiencing them when you keep on putting in the hard work.

And it’s so blimming worth it.

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