Making recovery a priority includes these type of runs, which are short, easy cardio sessions (usually 15-20 minutes long) meant to help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. Mellow workouts like this are important for all runners, novices and veterans alike, and are usually done the day after a more physically demanding run (like an interval session or race). “You should be able to have full conversations with people on these runs, and not feel any burn in the legs,” says Kennihan.
If you’re a beginner, Kennihan says your recovery can take the form of foam rolling or yoga in lieu of adding mileage. “For those with higher mileage bases, recovery runs are great for increasing your aerobic base without causing more stress,” she says.
10 Incredible Benefits of Running
From head to toe, mood to muscles, here’s why so many people extol the virtues of running.
1. It’s convenient
Alongside walking, running ranks among the most convenient exercise activities available. Unlike hitting the gym or playing a round of tennis, running is something you can do anytime, anywhere. “You can literally go right outside your door and start,” Verrengia says.
Just lace up your running shoes and you’re ready to hit the pavement — or the treadmill, track, park, or trail behind your house. The options are endless. And you don’t have to carve out precious alone time to run, either. As Verrengia notes, you can bring your dog with you, or head out with a friend or significant other.
2. It’s cheap
In the age of pricey gym memberships and boutique workout studios that charge upwards of $30 a class, running can actually help you save cash. It’s free to do, and doesn’t require any equipment. “All you need is a good pair of running shoes [and some workout clothes],” says Kennihan.
3. It can help improve your cardiovascular health
Running helps build strong, healthy hearts. A study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that runners had a 30 percent lower overall risk of mortality, and a 45 percent lower risk of death due to heart disease, compared with non-runners.
And those stats don’t just represent long-distance running, either. The study found that running just five to 10 minutes a day at speeds less than 6 mph (i.e., jogging) is enough to significantly reduce your risk of mortality in general, and death due to cardiovascular problems specifically.
4. It’s easy to learn
There’s very little barrier to entry when it comes to running. Just about anyone is capable of doing it, regardless of age, weight, fitness level, or experience.
That doesn’t mean running is easy, though — it just means you don’t have to possess any special skills to do it. As Kennihan notes, chances are good you already learned to run when you were a toddler, so now you just need to re-familiarize yourself with proper form.
5. It can help you lose weight
Running can be a major boon to your weight-loss goals. The amount of calories burned can vary, with intensity being the greatest determinant in how fast you complete a mile — and how much fat you ultimately shed.
Steady-state running, which tops out at 80 percent of your max heart rate, may help you lose fat at first, but to optimize long term fat loss, you’ll likely need to pick up the pace. Once you’ve built a strong fitness base, interval training is the best way to torch fat without losing muscle.
6. It can enhance joint health
Contrary to popular belief, running doesn’t cause any more joint problems than other forms of exercise — in fact, regularly pounding the pavement can actually benefit your joints. Just as it does to your leg muscles, running puts stress on the cartilage in your knees, ankles, and hips; the cycle of compression and expansion that occurs during each step is what helps strengthen your cartilage and ligaments over time.
7. It gives you a natural high
Runner’s high — the feeling of euphoria you get during or following a run — is real. “Running boosts the brain’s serotonin levels, dopamine levels, and endorphins,” says Kennihan. That quick injection of joy and energy is awesome in and of itself, but the added benefit is that it can make you that much more motivated to tackle your next workout.
8. It can increase leg strength and core stability
Few types of exercise whip your body into shape like running. It can strengthen and define your calves, hamstrings, quads, adductors (inner thigh muscles), and glutes—especially if you perform it as speed work. Plus, it challenges your core.
“Running automatically engages your core muscles and forces you to stabilize your hips,” says Kennihan. A strong core can help with balance, stability, and stamina in everyday activities, she adds. Think: walking, playing sports, carrying groceries, and even maintaining good posture as you work at your desk.
9. It can strengthen your bones
“Running is a weight-bearing exercise that stresses the bones just enough to help build more density,” Kennihan says. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that running not only has a greater effect on bone density than non-weight bearing activities like cycling, but that it also has a greater effect on bone density than other weight-bearing activities, like resistance training, thanks to being more high-impact.
That’s not to say you should ditch strength training in your quest for more robust bones; the difference between strength training and running was statistically significant but functionally negligible in that respect. Plus, when combined with running, the two activities offer a killer one-two punch to help build stronger bones, Kennihan adds.
10. It can improve your athleticism
Running is an essential component of the majority of sports, from football to cricket. It’s no surprise, then, that regular running workouts, which help improve your stamina, speed, and cardiovascular endurance, can make you an overall stronger, more adaptable athlete.