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There are so many benefits of running! Running is one of the cheapest and simplest forms of exercise. Toss on your running shoes and hit the pavement.

But people think running takes something extra. Some unknown quality that only certain people (runners) have.

As a non-runner, I look at runners with a strange mix of envy and bewilderment. I hate running. I can’t explain to a runner why, like a runner can’t explain to me why they run. The longest running program I’ve ever followed was 3 days. This, of course, is where the envy comes in because I know that running is good for me.

Update: After writing 2,000+ words about the benefits of running, I decided to smack my bitch ass into gear and make a commitment to run. I’m going to use the C25K app and actually do it. I’ll be starting on June 1st and I’m not excited about it.

The 8 Benefits of Running

There are a ton of benefits of running – more than a single post could ever cover. I’m going to tell you the best 8 benefits of running.

Running Benefit #1: Cardiovascular Health

We call it cardio for a reason – because it works your cardiovascular system. Your cardiovascular system handles your blood flow – it includes the heart and the circulatory system (which moves blood in your body).

Running helps strengthen the muscles of your heart. This will reduce the amount of work your heart has to do. Running lowers blood pressure and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It increases “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

These things together add up to a reduced risk of heart disease. Runners are at least 35% less likely to develop heart disease than non-runners.

Try running – your heart will thank you.

Running Benefit #2: Bone Density

Bone density is a measure of how strong your bones are. Your bone density changes throughout life.

For the average woman, bone density will increase until about age 30. From there, it remains pretty constant (except during pregnancy and breastfeeding) until menopause. During menopause, bone density drops significantly and then declines slowly after that.

Low bone density is the major cause of osteoporosis which increases a persons risk of bone fractures.

The stress that running puts on your bones is actually what makes them stronger. The ideal amount of running for bone density is 20 to 30 km (12 to 19 miles) per week.

Running Benefit #3: Cheap, Easy & Convenient

You could run for free. You don’t need running shoes (Zen Habits has more information about barefoot running).

You can run anywhere. There are advantages and disadvantages to pavement, trails and elsewhere. But the fact remains that running is possible in any location.

Running isn’t rocket science. You might need to make some small adjustments to your form but if you can walk you can probably run. Runners World has a great article on proper running form.

Now that I’ve pointed out that running can be free and done anywhere. Let’s be real.

You’re going to buy running shoes and you might want some weather-specific clothes if you’re going to run outdoors. But, you can use these shoes for all your exercise needs.

If you combine running with a workout you can do at home (like squatsupper body, or abs), you might not need to buy any extra equipment at all.

Running Benefit #4: Respiratory System

When you’re running, your body requires more oxygen. This means that your breathing rate must increase (up to 15 times more than when you’re at rest). This will lead to an increase in your lung’s oxygen capacity and stronger lung muscles.

Breathing is an important part of running life. It’s something that we often take for granted. But, runners tend to have better breathing than non-runners. It makes sense when you consider how important breathing is to running.

The American Lung Association has a great article about better breathing for running.

Running Benefit #5: Mental Health

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “you can’t run away from your problems.” But the thing is, maybe you can.

Running can reduce stress because it increases serotonin levels in the brain. Also, running allows your body to exert any extra energy which can further reduce stress levels. Even a short run can be helpful for your mental health.

A 2010 study concluded that “endurance exercise training might be beneficial for maintaining cognitive function in elderly persons.” I feel safe in assuming you’d like to keep your wits in old age – I would.

Running Benefit #6: Joint Strength & Stability

Better joint strength and stability means that you’re less likely to fall over. And, if you do fall, you’re less likely to seriously injure yourself.

For example, imagine you trip over something. You fall and sprain your ankle. A moderate sprain will take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. Regular runners will be closer to the 6 weeks. Non-runners are more likely to take 8 weeks.

Maybe you’ve heard that running causes more joint problems than other exercises? Although it’s a popular belief, it’s not applicable to the vast majority of runners. Running does put more stress on your joints but this is what strengthens them. Joint problems due to running are usually related to improper form or extreme endurance athletes.

Running Benefit #7: Runners Legs

Want sexy legs? Try running. Running is a top exercise for your whole legs. Combine it with some strength training, like squats, and you’ll be a powerhouse in no time.

Running works your calves, hamstrings, quads, adductors, and glutes. Few exercises can compare to the leg work you’ll get from running. Get a hot little pair of running shorts to show off your runners legs while running.

Reality Check: Changing how your legs look to you might take more than changing how your legs actually look. You’re going to be your own worst critic. Try to focus on the positive.

Running Benefit #8: Weight Loss

The benefit you’ve all been waiting for – Losing weight with running!

Two things about weight loss and running:

  1. Weight loss is a temporary benefit of exercise. You’re (ideally) not going to be trying to lose weight forever.
  2. Exercise alone (including running) isn’t going to be enough. Weight loss is 80% (or more) diet.

Check out these 13 popular diets if you’re looking to lose weight!

With that out of the way, running can help you lose weight. Running burns a lot of calories.

Oversimplified, you’ll burn 100 calories per mile (1.6km). But, it varies based on speed and your weight. Runners World has a great calculator to find out how many calories you burn in a session.

People see these numbers and they’re like OMG I HAVE TO RUN! Yet, what they often don’t consider is how outrageously hungry running makes you feel. This is the #1 cause of runners not losing weight.

If you want to lose weight from running, you’re going to have to control your runners’ hunger. Because running doesn’t give you a free pass to the all you can eat buffet.

3 Types of Running

There are three types of running – Jogging, Sprinting, and Distance Running. You can do any combination of any type of them. Whatever works for you.


Jogging is just slow and steady running. Some people think of jogging as steady and faster than walking. It’s the same thing – jogging is some steady speed between walking and running.

Jogging is the most common form of running because you can do it for long periods of time.


Sprinting is running for short bursts of time. Usually, one sprints as fast as they can for the designated amount of time.

Sprinting is also known as Speed Work and it’s the most effective type of running for burning fat. But, it’s also the most physically demanding and the hardest to do for any length of time.

Sprinting is usually done as intervals. For example, you might sprint for 30 seconds and then jog/walk for 3 minutes to recover. Repeat for 30 minutes. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down!

Distance Running

Distance running is running more than 5miles / 8km. The key here is the term running – usually, this is defined as speeds over 6mph (10km/h).

When you’ve maxed out your running speed, distance running is the next step. When you first start running, you’re jogging. You want to jog 5k. Then you want to do it faster, and faster. But you reach a point where faster isn’t an option so you switch your goal to go further. You’ve moved from jogging into distance running. Congrats.

Running Risks

No exercise is completely risk-free, including running. You can mitigate most of the risks of running through proper form and reasonable distances.

Improper form is dangerous. The most frequent runners’ injuries are runners knee, shin splints, and tendonitis. The #1 cause of these injuries? Improper form.

Check yourself – or even better, run with someone else who can check your form for you.

Overuse – in the case of running, too many miles – can cause the same injuries as improper form. To help reduce running risks even more, you should always warm up and cool down.

3 Fun Alternatives to Running

There are tons of cardio alternatives to running. Hiking, HIIT and Rowing share the most benefits with running. If you really won’t run, try one of these instead.

Running Alternative #1: Hiking

Hiking can be comparable to running. Choose a hiking route with a lot of hills and keep up a brisk pace. Hiking has the added benefit of getting you out into nature.

Unfortunately, there aren’t great hiking options everywhere. The closest great hiking to me is about a 35-minute drive away so it’s not something I can do frequently. 

Running Alternative #2 – HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

HIIT is short, extremely intense bursts of activity between rest intervals.

Tabata workouts are a popular example of HIIT exercise. Tabata is when you give 100% effort for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds, repeating 8 times.

Tabata isn’t the only option though. You can do HIIT training for any (short) period of time with whatever rest time is needed. SELF offers a great 24 minute HIIT workout you can do at home.

Running Alternative #3 – Rowing

I love rowing. This is my favorite form of gym cardio. Unfortunately, I don’t have a gym membership these days and a good rowing machine costs several hundred dollars.

A cheap rowing machine is still expensive (over $100). The rowing machine model the last 2 gyms I belonged to had is over $1,000. I want one of those. If I was ever going to invest $1,000 in fitness equipment, this is where I’d put it. 

If you own a rowing machine or a gym membership, try rowing. It offers fantastic cardio benefits. It also strength trains the back, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and arms. So your whole body. 

Some gyms, having rowing classes. If you go to one, let me know how it is. I’ll be in serious gym envy. And of course, you could always go out and do some real rowing in a boat.

Use a SMARTER Goal

 If you’re not setting goals, you’re less likely to achieve what you want. Learn about SMART goal setting to help you achieve the life you want.SMARTER Goal Example:

Running With Friends

It’s always helpful to have a friend to exercise with. They’ll help keep you motivated and accountable. They’ll also give you support, listen to you bitch and celebrate your achievements. But, finding a friend willing to take up running with you might not be so easy. Luckily, you have other options. Most cities will have some kind of running group you can join. Some places might charge a small fee, others will be free. Google “running group {your town/city}” to see what comes up. If that doesn’t work out, there’s always This Bitch & Her Readers. Share in the comments and find a virtual running buddy. You can run together just not IRL.

Give Running a Try!

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Running offers so many great benefits, you should give it a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love.

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