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13 Benefits of Running On Physical Health

If you’ve ever gone on a run, you might have experienced that post-run euphoric feeling. And while that feeling is great, running is so much more than that. In addition to this immediate feel-good payoff, running has long-term physical health benefits. Here are 13 of the best indoor running benefits.

1. Increase longevity 

Two Older People Smiling at Each Other on a Swing

One of the most cited benefits of running is its impact on overall life longevity. According to studies, running reduced premature mortality by 25-40%.1 Researchers believe this may be because running can reduce chronic disease, thus increasing longevity. Even just one hour of running a week may have substantial effects on less active people.2

Many researchers are trying to find the exact amount you should run to enhance longevity, but for now, it looks like any amount is helpful!

2. Improve cardiovascular health

Family Running In a Park with Their Dog

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. So, improving heart health is hugely beneficial. Running can improve your cardiovascular health by improving your resting heart rate and oxygen intake. One study found that it improves heart function and increases oxygen intake ability in those who have trained for more than a year.

3. Weight loss/body mass

Woman Tying Her Shoes on the Beach

Many people run because they want to lose weight. And while running does help people lose weight, it can also help reduce overall body mass and keep off weight.

In one study, those who ran for more than a year had a significant reduction in body mass and body fat percentage compared to those who did not run.3

Although any physical activity can help with weight loss, another study found that running can significantly change overall body mass index (BMI) compared to other similar activities like walking or hiking.4

Quick note: For those unfamiliar, BMI is a measurement of the fat index in the body.5

4. Boost immune system

Man lifting 5lb Weights

Running can even help boost your immune system! Scientists believe this happens because exercise can stimulate activity in the lymphoid and blood tissues. Over time, this effect can help your body monitor cells, decrease inflammation, and recognize foreign pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and precancerous or cancerous cells in the body.

Aside from more serious illnesses, exercise can also boost your immune system and delay the onset of age-related dysfunction.6

5. Enhances sleep

Woman sleeping peacefully.

This is one of our favorite indoor running benefits. According to Johns Hopkins, exercise like running helps you fall asleep faster and improves your overall sleep quality.7 Other research supports this.

One research study looked at students’ behaviors monitoring sleep and psychological function. Within just three weeks, they saw a difference. The study found that students who ran 3 days a week for just 3 weeks saw significant sleep function changes.8

6. Promotes a healthier lifestyle

Parents Teaching Their Daughter How to Bike

Running is great for promoting overall healthier habits– including cutting back or eliminating smoking habits (for those who smoke). 

Other studies show promising results for current smokers. For example, there was a change in the self-proclaimed identity of a smoker vs. a runner in this identity study, meaning that those who started to identify as runners were more likely to quit smoking. While other research found that of the men and women in the study, 81% of men and 75% of women quit smoking after they began recreationally running.9

7. Relieves stress and improves mental health

Woman smiling in the mirror.

If you constantly feel stressed, running can lower your body’s levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), which may help you feel more relaxed. Years of scientific evidence back the hypothesis that running can reduce symptoms of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, mood swings, and low self-esteem.10

For example, in addition to being cheaper and more convenient than costly medical treatments, researchers have found evidence that exercise is just as effective as psychotherapy and prescription medications in treating depression.11

We’re not saying you should abandon all medical treatment for depression and other mental health conditions. But adding running to your daily routine is a healthy and complementary way to support mental health and combat these issues.

8. Increases bone density

Man stretching outside on playground during sunset!

Bone is living tissue that changes over time in response to external forces, like your diet and physical activity. When you regularly participate in high-intensity exercises like running, your bones adapt by building more bone and increasing density.12 Having stronger, more dense bones means they’re less likely to fracture

To reap this tremendous benefit, you’ll also need to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet, which comes full circle. The better you eat, the easier your runs will be because you’ll adequately fuel your body.

9. Reduces the risk of several types of cancer

Two women in workout gear at a park.

One 2016 study looked at the habits of 1.44 million adults and found that high-fitness exercisers, such as runners, had a lower risk of developing 26 different types of cancers than low and non-exercisers.13 Although the authors of the study took other lifestyle habits into account, such as not smoking, they concluded that exercise had very specific health benefits for preventing cancer.

For those who do develop cancer, researchers indicate that running can still help improve health. It reduces mortality rates and lowers the risk of cancer returning in a different form. It may also decrease the severity of the side effects of challenging cancer treatments like chemotherapy.14

10. Builds muscular strength

Woman stretching in park.

Running is often viewed as cardio, but it’s also a total body workout. As long as you fuel your body sufficiently, running will help you build stronger muscles and improve the strength of your legs, upper body, and core. However, the muscle-building benefits of running largely depend on the intensity and duration of your runs.

For example, one research study determined that after 10 weeks of HIIT workouts involving running as fast as possible for a set amount of time, 12 individuals gained an 11% increase in muscle fiber at the front of the thigh, compared with the control group.15 This suggests that sprinting, rather than long-distance running, is best for building muscles.

11. Boosts cognitive function

Grandma & Granddaughter eating cookies in kitchen.

The discovery of cognitive benefits from running is pretty recent, but it’s just as exciting as all the other physical benefits! Running increases heart rate and blood flow, funneling more oxygen-rich blood to the brain. More oxygen and blood improve the brain’s health and performance. Additionally, a 2017 study from the European Journal of Neuroscience explores the possibility that running stimulates the release of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which improves the health of neurons in the brain.16

By improving your brain’s health, running can help protect you from cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s.

12. Lowers the risk of diabetes

Man running on the beach.

One of the significant side effects of being overweight is having high blood glucose levels, which typically leads to the onset of diabetes. High-intensity exercises like running can greatly reduce the risk of diabetes by improving glucose regulation and boosting your body’s sensitivity to insulin, combating insulin resistance.

One study compared more than 19,000 adults over six years and concluded that the runners were 72% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than the non-runners.17

13. Makes you feel more confident

Two young women laughing.

You set goals and push yourself to reach those milestones when you run regularly. As you work hard to achieve your goals, you develop a greater sense of self-efficacy, and you feel proud and confident in the work you’ve done. This is, by far, one of the best indoor running benefits!

Don’t know where to start?

Check out Vingo! With Vingo, you can join from any indoor treadmill — hop on a trail and explore, and go for a quick run. We have options of all lengths and terrains so you can choose what’s best for you.

Key takeaways:

If you already love running, perhaps this list of indoor running benefits gives you even more reasons to love it! On the other hand, if you’re just getting into running, the long-term benefits could be worth at least establishing some routine (as we mentioned, a little can go a long way here). And if you loathe running, try an alternative form of exercise that’s more fun for you, like cycling. Any form of exercise is better than nothing!

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Sources

  1. Lee, D. C., Brellenthin, A. G., Thompson, P. D., Sui, X., Lee, I. M., & Lavie, C. J. (2017). Running as a key lifestyle medicine for longevity. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 60(1), 45-55.
  2. Hespanhol Junior, L.C., Pillay, J.D., van Mechelen, W. et al. Meta-Analyses of the Effects of Habitual Running on Indices of Health in Physically Inactive Adults. Sports Med 45, 1455–1468 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0359-y
  3. Williams P. T. (2013). Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 45(4), 706–713. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827b0d0a
  4. Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of sport and health science, 8(3), 201-217.
  5. Kalak, N., Gerber, M., Kirov, R., Mikoteit, T., Yordanova, J., Pühse, U., … & Brand, S. (2012). Daily morning running for 3 weeks improved sleep and psychological functioning in healthy adolescents compared with controls. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51(6), 615-622.
  6. Priebe, C. S., Beauchamp, M., Wunderlich, K., & Faulkner, G. (2020). “I’ma runner not a smoker”: Changes in identity as predictors of smoking cessation and physical activity. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 49, 101702.
  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022). Exercising for Better Sleep. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep
  8. Koplan JP, Powell KE, Sikes RK, Shirley RW, Campbell CC. An Epidemiologic Study of the Benefits and Risks of Running. JAMA.1982;248(23):3118–3121. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330230030026
  9. Sánchez-Pinillaa, R. O., & Aguilar-Blancob, E. M. (2006). Running and Its Influence On Smoking Habits. Primary Care, 37(9), 478–481. https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-atencion-primaria-27-articulo-running-its-influence-on-smoking-13089610 
  10. Markotić, V., Pokrajčić, V., Babić, M., Radančević, D., Grle, M., Miljko, M., Kosović, V., Jurić, I., & Karlović Vidaković, M. (2020). The Positive Effects of Running on Mental Health. Psychiatria Danubina, 32(Suppl 2), 233–235.
  11. Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H., & Hovland, A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 202, 67–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.063 
  12. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2020, July). Exercise and Bone Health. OrthoInfo. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/exercise-and-bone-health/ 
  13. Moore, S. C., Lee, I. M., Weiderpass, E., Campbell, P. T., Sampson, J. N., Kitahara, C. M., Keadle, S. K., Arem, H., Berrington De Gonzalez, A., Hartge, P., Adami, H. O., Blair, C. K., Borch, K. B., Boyd, E., Check, D. P., Fournier, A., Freedman, N. D., Gunter, M., Johannson, M., . . . Patel, A. V. (2016). Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 176(6), 816. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1548 
  14. Cormie, P., Zopf, E. M., Zhang, X., & Schmitz, K. H. (2017). The Impact of Exercise on Cancer Mortality, Recurrence, and Treatment-Related Adverse Effects. Epidemiologic Reviews, 39(1), 71–92. https://doi.org/10.1093/epirev/mxx007 
  15. Estes, R. R., Malinowski, A., Piacentini, M., Thrush, D., Salley, E., Losey, C., & Hayes, E. (2017). The Effect of High Intensity Interval Run Training on Cross-sectional Area of the Vastus Lateralis in Untrained College Students. International journal of exercise science, 10(1), 137–145.
  16. Dinoff, A., Herrmann, N., Swardfager, W., & Lanctôt, K. L. (2017). The effect of acute exercise on blood concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy adults: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Neuroscience, 46(1), 1635–1646. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.13603 
  17. Wang, Y., Lee, D. C., Brellenthin, A. G., Eijsvogels, T. M., Sui, X., Church, T. S., Lavie, C. J., & Blair, S. N. (2019). Leisure-Time Running Reduces the Risk of Incident Type 2 Diabetes. The American Journal of Medicine, 132(10), 1225–1232. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2019.04.035

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