Blog
running benefits lung health

17 Benefits of Running

You’ll have heard that running is good for you, but exactly what are the health benefits of running? 

From toning your muscles to improving your wellbeing, running is good for both your physical and mental health. If you need inspiration to start running or motivation to carry on, this article will quickly have you lacing up your running shoes!

Are you interested in running but want to take your passion for fitness to the next level? If so, a career in personal training could be for you. OriGym’s fully accredited personal training courses could be the next step in your fitness journey. 

You can also browse our free downloadable course prospectus to learn more about the full range of fitness courses available here at OriGym. 

If you love running, why not download our FREE 16-Week Half Marathon Training Programme here:

Running vs jogging

benefits of jogging and running

The terms ‘running’ and ‘jogging’ are often used interchangeably. This is because when discussing the health benefits of jogging and running, they are pretty much the same!

But did you know that there are actually some differences, albeit minor, between the two activities? 

The main difference is in intensity and pace. Running is typically faster than jogging, with jogging being said to have a pace of less than 10 minutes a mile. Anything over that is considered a run. 

Being at a faster pace, running requires more energy and so technically burns more calories than jogging. But what you eat is just as important as exercise when it comes to shedding calories. If losing weight is your goal, check out our list of the best herbs for weight loss

However, the similarities of running far outweigh the differences. Most importantly, they are both forms of aerobic exercise. This means that the physical health benefits of jogging and running are very similar in terms of the positive impact on the body, as well as on your mental wellbeing. 

Referring to yourself as a ‘jogger’ or a ‘runner’ is simply a matter of preference. For the purposes of this article, when we discuss the benefits of running, we’re also talking about the benefits of jogging! 

Benefits of Running

So, what are the benefits of running? Here are the 17 reasons that running is so good for you! 

1. Running benefits your lung health 

running benefits lung health

One of the main fitness benefits of running is undoubtedly the positive impact it has on your lung health. Being a form of aerobic exercise, running both increases lung capacity and strengthens your respiratory muscles. 

The purpose of the lungs is to bring oxygen into the body and get rid of waste carbon dioxide. When you run, this happens at a faster rate because your muscles are working harder. So the more you run, the harder your lungs have to work and the stronger they become. 

However, this doesn’t happen overnight! Over time, your lungs will gradually become more efficient at pumping oxygen around the body as well as expelling carbon dioxide. 

This is why you will find yourself getting out of breath less quickly as your fitness level improves. In other words, the more you run, your lungs become healthier and your running performance improves! 

By strengthening your respiratory muscles, running can even help prevent or ease the symptoms of breathing conditions such as asthma. 

Studies such as this one in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine have shown that aerobic exercises such as running can decrease airway inflammation and thus reduce the effects of asthma. 

2. Running benefits your mental health

running mental health benefits

The mental health benefits of running are often discussed, but why exactly is running so good for you and your wellbeing? 

When you run, the body releases endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, into the brain. These hormones are what gives you that ‘runner’s high’ after a run that leaves you in a good mood for the rest of the day! 

Running is also a great way to reduce stress. If you find yourself over-thinking or feeling anxious, there is nothing like a run to clear your head. Running can be a very mindful and grounding experience, helping to calm the mind and gain perspective on your worries. 

If you suffer from anxiety or low mood, running or jogging can be a huge help. As well as releasing mood-boosting chemicals into the brain, it also reduces the production of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. 

Another good mental health benefit of running is that it gives you something to focus on. If you find yourself lacking motivation or purpose, setting and working towards running goals can be hugely beneficial to your self-esteem and confidence. 

If you run alone, running is also a great way to take time for yourself and have a moment away from the stresses of daily life. 

Want to know more about the effect of running on the brain? Check out OriGym’s article on the mental health benefits of running

3. Running helps you sleep better 

running benefits sleep

Like any form of aerobic exercise, one of the huge health benefits of jogging and running is that it helps you get a good night’s sleep. This subsequently has a huge impact on many other aspects of your life.

Studies have shown that almost 1 in 5 adults in the UK struggle to fall asleep every night. But doing as little as 10-30 minutes of exercise a day - such as running, can drastically improve your quantity and quality of sleep. 

The relationship between sleep and running goes both ways: running helps you sleep and sleep improves your running!

Sleep is important for so many reasons. It is vital for physical recovery, as it is during sleep that your muscles can rest and repair. Sleep is therefore beneficial for your running performance, as it helps your muscles get stronger.

Getting a good night’s sleep is also important for your mental health. It helps you feel more energised, improves concentration and a lack of sleep has even been linked to depression. 

Whilst one of the main benefits of running as an exercise is helping you get to sleep, it is all about timing! The endorphins and ‘runner’s high’ you experience after a run can actually make you feel more alert and awake. Just remember to adequate time to wind-down after a run before going to bed. 

4. Running is good for your knees

physical benefits of running

When asking ‘what are the physical benefits of running’, your first thought may not be your knees. In fact, running is often associated with knee injuries and you may have heard of the infamous ‘runner’s knee’. But did you know that running can actually be good for them? 

Whilst it is true that running does put an impact on the knee joints, the claim that running directly causes knee problems such as osteoarthritis has not been proven. 

Research into running and knee pain, such as this study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, has found that there is no clear link between osteoarthritis and running. 

In fact, running could actively reduce the chance of joint problems. One of the key body benefits of running is that it strengthens your muscles. Having strong muscles surrounding your joints therefore takes the impact away from the joints themselves. 

Although knee injuries are indeed common amongst runners, they are a lot more common for non-runners or people who don’t exercise regularly! This is because the more you run, the more lubricated your knee joints get and so the less likely they are to get injured. 

However, it is important to never run on an injury. If you already have bad knees, listen to your body and don’t run if you are in pain. 

Your running shoes also play a key role in the impact your knees take on when running. Check out OriGym’s list of the best cushioned running shoes if you think you need more protection for your knees! 

5. Running helps you lose weight

health benefits of running weight

It is no surprise that one of the main physical benefits of running as an exercise is that it helps you lose weight - and keep it off!

If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume). Since running is a full-body aerobic workout, it burns a serious amount of calories!

The amount of calories you burn during any exercise depends on several factors such as age, weight, height, speed and even the type of surface you run on. However, an average-sized runner is said to burn around 100 calories per mile. 

Tools such as these running apps for beginners are a good way to track your runs and many tell you your calories burned. 

Unlike crash diets or other quick-fix weight loss methods, running consistently can help you maintain your weight loss in a healthy way. 

The weight loss benefits of jogging and running only get better when you start to add more speed or gradient to your runs. Doing sprints or running up hills torches even more calories!

6. Running benefits your heart health

running benefits heart health

The cardio benefits of running are another major reason to run. As well as helping you run for longer without getting out of breath, improving your cardiovascular health affects many other aspects of your health and wellbeing. 

Having a healthy heart reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and many other conditions. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that running just 5-10 minutes a day, even at slow speeds, reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. 

Running also helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which subsequently lowers your risk of developing heart disease.

When you run, your heart works harder to pump more blood around the body. Regular running therefore helps to strengthen the heart and its efficiency. You can think of your heart like any other muscle in the body; the more you work it, the stronger it gets! 

Even when you’re not running, the cardio benefits of running can still be felt. Your resting pulse rate will be lower and you will be able to take in a larger amount of oxygen. This means that your heart is more efficient and better at pumping blood around the body when you need it!

7. Running strengthens your legs and glutes

running benefits legs

One of the best physical body benefits of running is that it does wonders for strengthening your lower body.

Running particularly targets the quads, glutes and hamstrings, as these are the muscles that help propel you when you run. 

The key to building muscle through running is varying the type of runs you do. It is good to mix up your routine with a combination of high intensity running, sprint intervals, long-distance runs and slower jogs. For example, your glutes will get particularly toned when running uphill! 

Adding strength training into your fitness routine is a great way to tone your lower body and get the most out of the health benefits of jogging and running. Exercises such as squats, glute bridges and lunges will all help to improve the muscles you use when you run. 

Nutrition is also an important factor when it comes to building lower body strength. Running burns a lot of calories, so it is essential that you fuel your body in the right way! Eating healthy carbohydrates before a run and protein-rich foods post-run is an easy formula to follow. 

If you’re struggling to include protein into your diet, check out OriGym’s list of the best low-carb protein powders

8. Running can improve your immune system 

running benefits immunity

You may have heard that running - or any form of regular exercise, can boost your immune system. But what exactly is the link between running and immunity? 

Ultimately, the health benefits of running all contribute to a better immune system. Increased airflow in the lungs, for example, helps to expel bacteria and pathogens out of your body. This therefore reduces the chance of infection. 

There is also a more direct impact on the immune system when you are actually running. When you run, the number of white blood cells and antibodies in your body increases, which are the cells responsible for fighting off diseases. 

Running also increases your body temperature, which helps to kill harmful bacteria in the body and prevent it from multiplying. 

The reduction of stress hormones is another benefit of running that can boost your immune system. Stress hormones such as cortisol can hinder the immune system, so reducing them has a positive effect on your immune system! 

Want to know more about the benefits of running? Here’s some more articles that you’ll love!

9. Running improves your cognitive function 

benefits of running cognitive function

As well as boosting your mood, another mental health benefit of running is that it can improve cognitive function. 

Running raises the heart rate which pumps more oxygen to the brain. This has a whole host of benefits, including stimulating the growth of new brain tissue. 

Studies such as this one by the National Academy of Sciences have found that aerobic exercise improves memory function. When you run, more blood flows to the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory and learning. This therefore has a positive impact on our memory.

Running also stimulates the release of the hormone osteocalcin, which plays a key role in brain function. Who’d have thought that running could actually increase your brain power? 

The long-term effect of running on the brain is also not to be underestimated. There is a wealth of research suggesting that regular aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Although the link between running and cognitive function is a fairly recent area of research, it is definitely a serious running benefit to consider!

10. Running can help lower blood pressure

cardio benefits of running

Another significant physical health benefit of running is that it can help lower your blood pressure. 

High blood pressure (or hypertension) affects around 1 in 3 adults in the UK. Having high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. One of the main ways to prevent or treat the symptoms of high blood pressure is making lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly. 

Whilst running isn’t a direct treatment for hypertension, the general physical health benefits of running as an exercise all contribute to a normal blood pressure level. Maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening your heart and reducing stress in the body all help to lower blood pressure. 

11. Running is good for skin 

running benefits skin

If you’re wondering, ‘what are the health benefits of running?’, your first thought may not be your skin. Forget expensive skincare products, running is one of the best facials there is!

Any form of exercise- especially running, increases blood circulation. This means that your skin is supplied with more blood which is what gives you that healthy post-exercises glow! 

More blood flow to the skin also helps damaged skin to heal faster, which is why running has been shown to benefit acne sufferers. 

One of the biggest causes of problematic skin is stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can cause an increase in oil on the skin. Since running reduces the production of cortisol, it can therefore help keep oily skin at bay! 

Running outside is particularly good for your skin. The vitamin D your skin absorbs from the sun has anti-aging properties as well as giving you energy. Just remember to apply SPF to protect your skin when running outside. 

Activities such as trail running are great ways to get outside and feel the fresh air on your skin. If that sounds like it could be for you, check out our ultimate beginners guide to trail running here

12. Running strengthens the core 

body benefits of running core

As well as the legs and glutes, the fitness benefits of running can be felt in your core too. 

A key body benefit of running is that it helps you burn fat, which helps to make your abdominal muscles more defined. 

More specifically, running targets the transverse abdominals. These are the muscles that create those visible lines of definition on your core. So if you’re working towards a six-pack, running can help you reach your goals!

Paired with targeted ab exercises such as crunches, leg raises and planks, running is one of the best ways to tone the core. If you want to take your ab workouts to the next level, see our list of the best ab rollers to strengthen your core.

Running also strengthens your back bones and pelvis. This in turn supports and strengthens the core, as well as protecting the lower back from strain and injury. 

Interval sprints are one of the best forms of running to engage your core. Whilst all forms of running are good, a high intensity running session works your core muscles particularly hard! 

13. Running strengthens bones

benefits of running bones

Another physical benefit of running that you may not have considered is that it can strengthen your bones. 

Being mobile has been proven to aid bone strength, but as a weight-bearing exercise, running takes the top spot when it comes to healthy bones. 

One study by the University of Missouri found that high-impact exercise such as running may increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. 

Like many running benefits, the more you run, the stronger your bones become. The motion of running helps new bone tissue to form, which over time means that they can take more impact. Healthy bones are vital for a healthy body!   

14. Running can help you meet new people

running benefits social life

What are the benefits of running? Well, it can help boost your social life! Whilst running can be a solo sport, it can equally be a great way to socialise and meet new people.

Whether it’s meeting up with an old friend for a jog around the park or joining your local running club, running can be as sociable as you want it to be.

If you’re struggling with motivation, being part of a running club can be a great way to push yourself further than you normally would alone. 

Running groups are also a perfect chance to meet like minded people and make new friends. This is arguably one of the most important mental health benefits of running, as getting outside and social interaction are key components of mental wellbeing. 

Even if there aren’t any running clubs in your area, you can still get a sense of community from things like running forums and groups online. If this sounds like something for you, take a look at OriGym’s list of the best running forums and message boards

15. Running is cheap and accessible  

benefits of running cheap

A huge benefit of running is that it is one of the most accessible and affordable forms of exercise out there. 

Unlike many other sports, all you need to run is yourself. Yes, you can splash out on expensive running gear, but it really isn't essential! Once you have a decent pair of running shoes, you’re good to go!

To feel all the mental and physical health benefits of running, you don’t need to pay a gym membership or fork out on specialist equipment. 

No matter your age, gender, weight, height or fitness ability, there is a type of running to suit you and your fitness goals. You can do it solo or in a group, outside or inside. Running can be done anywhere, anytime, any place! 

16. Running allows you to explore new places

running benefits new places

A major health benefit of jogging and running is the opportunity it gives you to get outside and explore a new environment. 

Going for a run is a great way to explore your local area and discover new places that you might not have otherwise seen whilst walking or driving. Especially if you’re on holiday or have just moved to a new home, running is a free and easy way to see the local sights!

Running outside also increases your intake of vitamin D, which has a whole host of amazing benefits. Studies such as this one have shown that vitamin D helps to keep bones healthy, improve mood and strengthen the immune system. 

17. Running can increase your life expectancy 

running benefits life expectancy

If you’re still wondering, ‘what are the benefits of running?’, this one will surely make you head out on a jog. Running has been shown to increase your lifespan! 

As our article has shown, there is no doubt that running regularly leads to better physical health and mental wellbeing. A healthier heart, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reducing stress all add years to your life expectancy. 

There are countless studies that link running to a longer life. One study showed that the death rate of runners was 50 per cent lower than non-runners!

Running doesn’t just give you a longer life, but a better life all round. By improving your general health, regular aerobic exercise, such as running, leads to an overall better quality of life.

Before you go!

It is clear that running benefits not only your physical health, but also your mental wellbeing and many other aspects of your life. From strengthening your muscles to boosting your mood, there are a whole host of reasons to get your body moving. 

So, what are you waiting for? Lace up your running shoes and get out there! 

If all this talk of running has got you thinking about getting into the fitness industry, check out OriGym’s range of personal training courses and see where it could take you! 

You can also download our free prospectus to find out more about who we are and how OriGym can help you translate your passion for fitness into a career. 

References

  1. Aerobic Exercise Decreases Chronic Allergic Lung Inflammation and Airway Remodeling in Mice, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Rodolfo P. et al. 2007. 176 (9). 
  2. Insomnia Statistics UK 2021: How Many People Have Sleep Problems? Formulate Health. March 2021. 
  3. Timmins KA, Leech RD, Batt ME, Edwards KL. Running and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2017. 45(6):1447-1457. 
  4. Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Duck-chul Lee et al. 2014. 64(5). 
  5. Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Kirk I. Erickson et al. 2011. 108 (7). 
  6. Building Strong Bones: Running May Provide More Benefits Than Resistance Training, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. 2021. 
  7. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-126.
  8. Chakravarty EF, Hubert HB, Lingala VB, Fries JF. Reduced disability and mortality among aging runners: a 21-year longitudinal study [published correction appears in Arch Intern Med. 2008 Dec 8;168(22):2496]. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1638-1646. 

Written by Alice Williams

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Alice is a freelance content writer at OriGym. With a first-class degree in French and Linguistics, she loves all things language, fitness and culture. As part of her degree, she spent a year living in France where she worked for a lifestyle blog, gaining professional experience in both translation and content writing. 

When she’s not writing, you can usually find Alice practicing yoga and she hopes to one day become a yoga instructor herself. She also loves running, tennis and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! It was this passion for health and fitness, combined with her love for writing, that brought Alice to OriGym.

Recommended Posts

Download Your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme

Download Your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme