The Gift That Keeps On Giving

A woman wearing a hydration pack holds up her arms in celebration during a trail run

10 reasons why running is the best present we can give ourselves

Three women running on a trail through the woods
A group of people run a race together
A woman wearing a hydration pack holds up her arms in celebration during a trail run

1 - You can run anywhere, anytime.

Exercise classes are great … sometimes. But they have time and location restrictions that require planning ahead. Running, on the other hand, does not. Sure, there are limitations to this all-encompassing statement—and perhaps places and times to avoid—but for the most part, running is accessible. You don’t need fancy gear—just comfortable socks and well-fitting shoes—and that makes it a portable sport.

2 - You may strengthen your joints.

While the studies conducted on this (so far) are small, there’s mounting research that some running (think 30 minutes a day) might actually lower joint inflammation and improve long-term joint health. So, forget everything you’ve been told so far. Running may actually be good for your knees.

3 - You will strengthen your heart and better adapt to stress.

Running increases your heart rate variability (HRV), the metric that determines the variation between each heartbeat. The higher your HRV, the better your autonomic nervous system is working (the system responsible for recovery from hard workouts, digestion, sexual function, etc.).

According to Dr. Ashley Stewart, a psychophysiology and applied neuroscience specialist who studies HRV, “An organism’s health and adaptability is maintained by that organism’s variability in system functions. Variability means flexibility, which leads to stability and longevity.” Put simply: a higher HRV means you’re more likely to “bend and not break.”

4 - Running is a chance to play like a kid.

Don’t you ever get tired of all this adulting? Running is a chance to let loose and tap into your inner child, precisely what's behind the strategy of coach David Roche, of SWAP (Some Work, All Play) Adventure Team. And he has a long list of successful elite athletes to prove it works.

“If you ever see kids running at recess, you see pure joy. But a running coach might see something else—fast paces and great training,” says Roche. “Re-learning how to run like a kid at recess makes training more fun, while also making runners faster through a love of process. Race results come and go, but recess can be forever.” Eternal recess every time you lace up? Sure, why not?!

5 - You will make new friends and live longer because of them.

Friends who run together stay together. It’s true; we’re sure of it because we’ve been running and training runners for over 40 years. “Being with others, having their support, and sharing in their triumphs is what makes running in a group so rewarding,” says Jillian Wierderer, the Fleet Feet Sports training programs lead.

What’s more, a recently published 80-plus year study revealed that social connection and community involvement actually lead to a dramatically longer (and healthier) life. So, if you combine the health-boosting effects of running with the community engagement of running clubs, do you live forever?

6 - Running makes you gritty.

Strong is the new skinny and gritty is the new sexy. But in all seriousness, running makes you tougher. And for obvious reasons. You have to hone mental strength in order to get through a hard workout, weeks of training, or a faster half marathon PR. Let’s be honest, running is hard work. And the perseverance it requires translates to the way you engage with the rest of your life.

7 - Adventurous spirit? You can cover more ground when you run.

Yeah, yeah, walking is a wonderful way to explore a new city, mountain range, or park, but let’s be real … running is so much better. You can cover more ground in less time. And for the adventurer in each of us, running exploration is a no brainer.

8 – Running makes you more successful.

What do a CEO and a runner have in common? Turns out a lot. After all, if you can get through an arduous marathon training program and cross the line, you might just have the gusto it takes to run a big business. According to a recent study, CEOS who are also marathon runners tend to “run” a more viable company.

What’s more, regular exercise might also reverse brain cell loss that happens when we age. So, not only are you getting in shape as you log those miles, you’re getting smarter, too.

“When I run it invigorates my body and mind, to the point that even when I am done running I feel more alive and energized to carry on with the rest of my day," says Frank De Julius of Fleet Feet Sports Cincinnati. "Some days when I have low energy or motivation I will go for a short run and just that will spark something within me to be my best self for the rest of that day.”

9 - Running makes you feel happier.

Or high. Every time you run, your brain releases endorphins, a natural antidepressant. But the endorphins don’t just go anywhere, they latch on to the part of your brain associated with emotions (like euphoria). And, that endorphin release is addictive. Turns out the more you run, the more addictive it might become. (Could this be behind the recent rise in 200-mile ultra runs? We’ll see.)

10 – Running enhances creativity.

Ever feel like you come up with your best ideas while running? It’s probably because you do. Studies show that aerobic exercise increases your creative capacity for up to a couple of hours after you finish.

Yep, we know, running is pretty much the best sport in the world.