10 Amazing Benefits of Running

Running can help you live longer, get stronger and feel happier – and there’s no better time to start than now!


Research proves that regular exercise and running in particular—at least 150 minutes per week, which is about 30 minutes, five times a week—has major disease-fighting benefits. In fact, running and exercise have proven so beneficial to our health, that the American College of Sports Medicine has a program called Exercise is Medicine, which promotes physical activity as part of the treatment plan for symptoms related to illnesses like Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.

Disease prevention is just one major (and serious!) advantage of regularly clocking kilometres. For more reasons to lace up, here are all the benefits of running you need to know about. Keep this list in mind when you feel your motivation to move waning.

7 Research-Backed Benefits of Running

1. Boosted Happiness

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If you work out regularly, you know that exercise improves your mood. This feeling goes beyond just the “runner’s high”—that rush of feel-good hormones known as endocannabinoids.

Physical activity, like running, can help reduce risk of depressive symptoms, according to a small 2021 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The group of researchers studied people undergoing treatment for depression, and found improvements in those who participated in a three-week exercise program.

In an interview with Runner’s World, lead researcher Karin Rosenkranz, M.D., said: “Our study shows that intensive training is not necessary to make a difference, just increasing daily physical activity is sufficient to get started.” In other words, you don’t have to be a professional runner to gain these depression-fighting benefits—it’s just a matter of getting in more exercise each day.

Other major research from 2023 backs up the benefits of running for your mental health. For example, one study that compared running to depression medication, found that 16 weeks of the sport offered similar benefits to the meds for treating depressive symptoms. (Though researchers noted that treatment of depression involves many factors, often a combo of medications and physical activity.) Similarly, a research review of more 97 studies found a link between exercise and improvement in anxiety and depression symptoms.

2. Weight Loss and Maintenance

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You know that exercise burns calories while you’re working out, but there’s a big bonus for afterward, too: The burn continues after you stop. Studies have shown that regular exercise boosts “afterburn”—that is, the number of calories you burn postworkout. (Scientists call this EPOC, which stands for excess post oxygen consumption.) That’s kind of like getting a paycheck even after you retire.

And you don’t have to be sprinting at the speed of sound to get this benefit. This happens when you’re exercising at an intensity about 70 percent of your VO2 max.

3. Enhanced Eye and Bone Health

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It’s common knowledge that running lowers your risk of heart disease and strengthens your muscles. But this might be a surprise: Running improves your eyesight. A study comparing 100 marathon runners to people who are sedentary revealed long-distance runners have better vision and cognition, thanks to the effect it has on the central nervous system.

Chances are you’ve also had family, friends, and strangers warn you that “running is bad for your bones.” The truth is, running has been known to support bone density. A review published in the International Journal of Research and Public Health highlighted running as one of the best forms of physical activity for preventing osteoporosis in women.

4. Sharper Cognition

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Worried about “losing it” as you get older? Working out regularly will help you stay “with it.” A 2018 systematic review published in Neurology Clinical Practice found that exercising one hour a day, three times per week is associated with improved cognitive performance in older adults. Participants did all types of exercise, including aerobic, resistance training, mind-body exercises, or combinations of these.

Another small study, published in 2018, found that even just 15 minutes of running can enhance memory. As one of the study authors, Paul Loprinzi, Ph.D., previously pointed out to Runner’s World, aerobic exercise of any kind can enhance both short- and long-term memory.

What’s more: A study published in 2019, involving more than 1,100 people, found an association between higher endurance and better brain function.

5. Reduced Risk of Cancer

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Running certainly can’t cure cancer, but there’s plenty of proof that the benefits of running include helping to prevent the disease and improving overall quality of life for people living with the disease.

In fact, a review of 170 epidemiological studies in the Journal of Nutrition showed that regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers, while another study, which involved epidemiological research, found aerobic exercise could reduce cancer risk by 72 percent.

To get more granular: Another study from 2021, found that at least five hours of moderate-intensity physical activity may help to prevent cancers related to the breast, colon, stomach, kidney, bladder, and esophagus. Research from July 2023 also found a link between higher cardiorespiratory fitness (or VO2 max) and lower cancer risk, as well as lower risk of dying from cancer.

If you already have cancer, running (with your doctor’s approval) can improve your quality of life while you’re undergoing chemotherapy. A 2021 Scientific Reports review found cancer patients who practiced high-intensity training experienced improvements in quality of life as well as physical, social, and cognitive behaviors, breathing, fatigue, pain and insomnia.

6. Longer Life

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Even if you meet just the minimum of amount of physical activity (30 minutes, five times per week), you’ll live longer. In fact, one research review shows that by participating in regular physical activity, you can reduce your risk of all-cause mortality by up to 35 percent, compared to those who are inactive. And that can lead to a gain of up to almost seven years.

Basically, the more kilometres you log, the more time you’ll buy yourself—one of the best benefits of running.

7. Stress Relief

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Many of the benefits of running are long-term, but even in the immediacy of your day-to-day life, running can offer pay-offs, like minimizing your stress.

A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that exercise increases your resiliency to stress, which can help you better manage it. This can help you stave off the side effects of stress.

Research also shows that regular physical activity has a positive effect on how the central nervous system functions and minimizes the stress response. Even if something stressful happens, you are less likely to respond negatively or over-intensely, leaving you better equipped to stay calm.

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