10 Powerful Benefits of Running (Beyond Weight Loss)

POPSUGAR Photography | Kat Borchart
POPSUGAR Photography | Kat Borchart

Running is an incredible exercise for weight loss and leaning out the body, and we've seen so many inspiring weight-loss success stories that involve running. But this whole weight-loss thing can often eclipse the other benefits — mental and physical — which are equally impressive, powerful, and important. Did you know that running is part of a scientifically proven depression treatment? Or that running can heal smokers' lungs? Read on for 10 amazing reasons to start running.

Related: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Running

  1. It prevents disease, and can help you live longer. Running strengthens your body and heart in a way that other exercises don't, and has even been linked to preventing cancer. So running now will keep you healthier for a long time. It also will help control your blood pressure. Running just five minutes a day can cut your risk of CV disease in half!
  2. It strengthens you for other exercises. Hello, toned butt and legs!
  3. It improves your immune system. Studies have shown that moderate exercise improves immune function; just don't go too hard, because too much intense exercise can actually be detrimental to your health.
  4. Your lungs will get stronger. In addition to helping your heart, your lung capacity can increase from running (meaning your lungs can take in more oxygen). One study even found that running can help restrengthen a smoker's lungs.
  5. You'll get a boost in confidence. All right, so this one is a bit more anecdotal, but anyone who has completed a great run, a 5k, or a marathon knows the surge of confidence and sense of accomplishment that comes with it. In fact, we challenge you to train for a race, complete one, and see how you feel at the end!
  6. It improves your mood, and can make you feel happy or even euphoric, thanks to a rush of endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine.
  7. It reduces stress. In the same vein as the improved mood, running releases serotonin and reduces stress. Feeling crappy? Go for a run!
  8. You can eat more carbs! Yay, carbs!
  9. Running will help your memory and your brain will grow. A Harvard study linked running to better memory, and a Cambridge study had similar findings, citing the growth of gray matter.
  10. It can treat depression. Although finding motivation while depressed is more than challenging, scientists found similar evidence to the memory studies in terms of gray matter neurogenesis. They treated depressed patients with running and meditation, and the results were incredible.