True Benefits of Running — What Does Science Say?

In brief

Running comes with proven cognitive, mental, and general health benefits across all ages. It is an effective weight loss tool, especially when combined with resistance training, as well as a means for improving muscle, bone and joint strength. In general, runners have a 25%-40% reduced risk of premature mortality from any cause and live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners. Methods of improving running performance include early morning training sessions as well as running in cold weather. It is with lower temperatures that the body adapts and is protected against overheating, which improves running performance.

Running and its general health benefits

A number of large studies demonstrates a clear inverse association between cardiorespiratory fitness and overall mortality rates. This regards both apparently healthy individuals and those suffering from conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.[1] It turns out that even small volumes of daily aerobic exercise make people 30% less likely to die from any cause.[2] Having said that, it is only logical to think that running and other forms of aerobic exercise have a plethora of benefits for our physical health.

Running improves cardiovascular health

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are thought to be the leading cause of death in the world, resulting in 17.9 million fatalities in 2015 alone. It is estimated that a great number of CVD deaths can be prevented, running being one of the major preventive factors as demonstrated in research.
  • 50 minutes of running per week reduce the risk of mortality associated with cardiovascular issues. Compared with non-runners, runners had 45% lower risks of cardiovascular mortality, with a 3-year life expectancy benefit. Even slow speeds of up to 6 mph are enough to see these benefits.[3]
  • Those who cannot run due to obesity can start walking. Even walking 60 blocks per week is enough to reduce cardiac dysrhythmia by 48%.[4]

Running reduces the risk of certain types of cancer

Well over 150 observational studies have examined the relation between volumes of physical activity and cancer prevention. The evidence for decreased risk related to physical activity is considered convincing for colon and breast cancers, quite probable for prostate cancer, and possible for endometrial and lung cancers.[5]
  • The most robust evidence for an association between increased physical activity and cancer has been found for colon cancer. 43 out of 51 studies demonstrate an average risk reduction of 40–50%, and up to 70% among the most physically active.[6]
  • 32 out of 44 studies demonstrated a reduction in breast cancer risk in women who were most physically active — 30–40% on average.[7]
  • With risk reductions averaging 10–30%, the evidence for an association between physical activity and prostate cancer is less consistent, yet can still be classified as probable.[8]
  • Public health organizations, including the American Cancer Society and Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention, generally recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity at least 5 days a week.[9]

Running improves respiratory system function

Few respiratory issues should stop people from running. In most cases, running can come with distinct benefits for the respiratory system, relieving symptoms of such conditions as asthma and increasing your maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max), which is a measure of how much oxygen your body can effectively transport and use.
  • Running for half an hour three to four times a week at 75-85% of your MHR can improve your VO2 max by over 6% in just 18 weeks.[10]
  • In overweight and obese teenagers, aerobic exercise can partly improve lung function by strengthening the respiratory muscles.[11] At least 3 running sessions per week are required to see benefits.
  • Endurance running can improve the aerobic fitness of adults suffering from asthma. In a study involving nine asthmatic adults who underwent a 5-week endurance running training (3 times per week), the subjects had a considerably higher maximum oxygen uptake and it took them significantly less time to complete a two mile treadmill run after training.[12]
  • Both oral and nasal breathing is great for the respiratory system. However, beyond maximum 60% running or cycling heart rate, oral breathing offers better oxygenation.[13]

Running maintains good vision

One of the areas least expected to benefit from running is the vision. Nevertheless, moderate (walking) and vigorous (running) exercise have both been significantly associated with lower risks of developing certain eye conditions.
  • A study showed that those running vigorously saw a reduced risk of cataract. The more the subjects ran, the less they became prone to the issue.[14]
  • Running can also reduce the incidence of glaucoma. The risk is thought to be decreased 5% per kilometer-per-day run.[15]

Running strengthens bones and joints

A common misconception is that running is detrimental to joints. While it may be true for long-distance runners, moderate runs can come with robust benefits for both joint strength and bone density.
  • Generally speaking, running and physical exercise come with more benefits to the joints than drawbacks. Articular cartilages are thinner during periods of immobilization.[16]
  • Running improves bone mineral density. After 7 weeks of low to high intensity running, subjects saw a 0.9% increase in bone mineral density. The plasma bone turnover increased by 147% and procollagen type 1 N-terminal propeptide (the most sensitive biomarker of bone formation) increased by 84%.[17]
  • Provided there are no previous injuries, even runners after the age of 40 should not see any type of drawback or higher risk of osteoarthritis.[18]
  • Increasing the running step to 110% can reduce patellofemoral joint pressure by 14%.[19] The implication is that altering step rate may be a possible rehabilitation strategy for runners experiencing patellofemoral pain.

Running relieves menopause symptoms

Menopause comes with a number of symptoms and changes in body composition. Hot flushes, joint pain, reduced bone density, fatigue, mood swings, and problems with self-worth are all too common. Putting on your trainers, however, can help you deal with at least part of these symptoms.
  • If uncertain about hormone replacement therapies, physical activity has promise for combating some menopause related symptoms. Running will probably not relieve symptoms such as hot flashes, but it might improve women’s overall wellbeing, improve their bone composition, enhance their sleep quality, help them battle fatigue, and make weight control significantly easier.[20]
  • On a psychological level, menopause can come with certain concerns. Running can help women manage the quality of life and the sense of self-worth.[21]

Running increases energy levels

Low energy levels are often responsible for a lack of physical activity. But running can actually boost energy levels, which may be conducive to maintaining regular exercise routines.
  • Compared to those with sedentary lifestyles, runners enjoy better energy levels.[22] Even running for just 6 weeks at low to moderate rates can come with visible improvements in energy levels. The changes in feelings of energy and fatigue seem to be independent of changes in aerobic fitness.[23]
Running prevents premature aging A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that premature aging in the majority of organs in the body was completely prevented in mice that had ran on a treadmill 3 times per week for 5 months.[24]

Running and its benefits for mental health

Whether it’s work stress, family issues or financial worries, a simple run can be an effective antidote. By focusing on the surroundings, your breathing or simply on your bodily responses, you break free from the endless loop of overthinking for a while. However, running does so much more that block intrusive thoughts and provide temporary peace of mind. It actually does change your brain’s chemistry, producing lasting changes that positively impact general mental health. Numerous studies have shown that even a few short runs every week can come with visible benefits for anxiety, depression and negative moods.

Running alleviates anxiety

Anxiety is on the rise both for athletes and for the general population. Current gold standards for treatment are insufficient, prompting the need for unconventional approaches. Running has been shown to successfully relieve anxiety symptoms. In some studies, in fact, it worked just as well as medication.
  • A review of extensive literature on the subject reveals that aerobic exercise may be responsible for lowering anxiety through a combination of factors. Among the proposed mechanisms of action are increases in the EEG-? frequency band (thought to be associated with relaxation), increases in core body temperature (thought to reduce muscular tension), and increases in blood free tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin), which enters the brain at an increased rate, resulting in increased serotonin levels.[25]
  • According to studies reported by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular exercise may work just as well as medication to reduce symptoms of anxiety, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours.[26] However, long-lasting benefits are only seen when running is maintained on a long-term basis.[27]
  • A 10-week program that asked patients to complete a 4-mile route at least three times a week resulted in anxiety reduction equal to treatment with clomipramine, a drug of proven efficacy.[28]
  • Individuals who exercise regularly are less likely to meet diagnostic criteria for panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, and generalized anxiety.[29]
  • Aerobic exercise has been shown to significantly increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) levels in individuals with neurological and psychiatric conditions. For example, after a 30-min bout of moderate-intensity exercise, patients with panic disorder had significantly increased BDNF concentrations, which may translate into greater resistance to anxiety.[30]
  • Among people suffering from anxiety disorders, higher physical activity has been associated with improved social functioning.[31]

Running fights depression

An exercise training program may be considered an alternative to antidepressants for treatment of depression. Although medication may come with faster therapeutic response than exercise, in the long run exercise intervention proves equally effective in reducing depression among patients.
  • Exercise is as effective as medication for reducing symptoms of depression, as demonstrated in a study by Blumenthal and colleagues.[32] They randomly assigned 156 moderately depressed men and women to an exercise (walking or jogging 30 minutes 3 times per week), medication (sertraline), or exercise and medication group. Results showed that while medication worked more quickly to reduce symptoms of depression, there were no significant differences among treatment groups after 16 weeks.
  • Interestingly, a 10-month follow-up of those participants revealed that subjects in the exercise group (70%) had significantly lower rates of depression than those in the medication (48%) or the combination groups (54%).[33]
  • In another study, running was found to be as effective for treatment of depression as cognitive behavioral therapy. When study participants were assigned to one of three groups—a running group, CBT group, and a group that received both interventions—all three groups experienced a comparable, significant decline in symptoms of depression. The improvement had been maintained after four months.[34]
  • Greist and colleagues[35] compared aerobic exercise with time-limited and time-unlimited psychotherapy. They found that exercise interventions were equal to time-limited therapy and better than time-unlimited therapy.
  • Running can be used as a stand-alone therapy or in combination with other depression-reduction methods, even for major depressive disorder (MDD). Exercise as a complementary therapy with antidepressants and cognitive behavioral group therapy (CBGT) resulted in greater reduction in MDD symptoms, with 75% of the patients showing a therapeutic response or a complete remission, compared to just 25% of patients who did not exercise.[36]

Running boosts self-esteem

One of the overlooked running benefits is tied to self-esteem. While a concept that shouldn’t be overlooked at any age, a stable self-image is particularly important for adolescents. Positive self-esteem allows teens to take healthy risks, make bonds and solve problems, which is likely to set them up for a positive future. But it is exactly in adolescence when self-esteem is at its most vulnerable. It turns out physical activity, including running, can be a powerful tool to help you feel good about yourself at any age.
  • A longitudinal study of adolescent girls that looked into the relationship between physical activity and self-esteem revealed that higher aerobic capacity at ages 9 and 11 years were associated with higher self-esteem at ages 11 and 13 years respectively. The positive effects were most apparent at age 11 and for girls with higher BMI.[37]
  • In another study involving overweight children, a 40 minute daily dose of aerobic exercise was clearly conducive to increasing physical appearance self-worth, and in white children, increasing general self-worth.[38]
  • These effects are not limited to adolescents exclusively. A study that enrolled participants aged 20–60 years, all university staff members, revealed that physical activity, perceived physical fitness, and body image are both directly and indirectly associated with self-esteem.[39]

Running reduces stress

Our daily worries play out on an endless loop in our head, keeping the stress hormones high and setting ground for a variety of diseases. Regular exercisers are more resistant to the emotional effects of acute stress, which in turn may protect them against disorders related to chronic stress burden.
  • Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress. In a study involving healthy adults, a psychosocial stressor (the Trier Social Stress Test) produced a smaller decline in positive mood among the regular exercisers, compared to the sedentary individuals.[40]
  • Similar results were obtain in a study of rats. The long-term practice of running had a strong positive impact on stress resilience, suggesting that lifelong aerobic exercise might reduces the stress response and protect against diseases related to chronic stress.[41]

Running is a mood and happiness booster

The so-called runner's high is a well-known phenomenon among long-distance runners. The mechanisms underlying this euphoric state explain why endurance exercise may have therapeutic impact on mood elevation in patients with depression and anxiety disorders.
  • A study involving 10 trained male athletes revealed that sustained physical exercise (an average running distance of 21.5 ± 4.7 km) significantly affects mood. The euphoria ratings increased from 37.6 on a 100 scale (prior to exercise) to 73.3/100 (post exercise). Similar significant modulations were observed on the happiness scores, with significant increases after running compared with the ratings prior to exercise as well as during rest on the day.[42]
  • It has been demonstrated that exercise-induced euphoric changes in mood result fromalterations in endogenous opioid release.[43]

Running promotes better sleep

Research has evidenced clear benefits of regular exercise to improving sleep. Physical activity relieves stress and anxiety, which negatively affect sleep patterns, regulates circadian rhythms and improves the quality of sleep even for people with chronic sleep disorders, including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. Yet, it is not a quick fix, and it takes weeks before exercise routine actually improves the quality and quantity of your shut eye!
  • A study involving a group of adults in their 50s and older, all of whom suffered from chronic insomnia, revealed that engaging in long-term exercise routine (three to four 30-minute sessions per week of moderate aerobic exercise) may improve sleep across several measures, including sleep duration (as much as an additional 1.25 hours per night), sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness. It is worth noting that the effects were not observed earlier than at the end of a 16-week study period.[44]
  • Individual exercise sessions do not seem to have an immediate effect on sleep. Interestingly, results suggest that sleep may have an immediate impact on next day exercise. Subjects had shorter exercise sessions after nights when they didn't sleep well.[45]

Running and its cognitive benefits

Scientists now have viable evidence that regular running sessions can improve learning ability, boost creativity, and potentially slow the age-related decline in cognitive function. Here’s what we know so far:

Running improves memory and boosts learning ability

As little as a single session of running has been shown to increase the synthesis of the so-called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), the effect being further intensified by regular exercise.[46] BDNF is a protein which helps to encourage neurogenesis and support the survival of existing neurons, thereby contributing to improvements in cognitive function. This might explain why certain studies show a correlation between running and improved learning ability/retention. It’s worth noting, however, that the intensity of exercise might make a difference.
  • A study which assessed learning performance after two intense sprints of three-minutes, after 40 minutes of low-intensity running, or after period of resting showed that participants in the high-intensity group were able to learn novel vocabulary 20 percent faster than participants in the other conditions. They also showed superior memory retention a week later.[47]
  • The same study revealed that both high-intensity and low-intensity exercise stimulated the synthesis of BDNF and dopamine, a feel-good hormone that plays a role in long-term memory (although high-intensity sessions were more effective in this respect).[48] In a different study, elderly participants who had taken a precursor of dopamine performed 20 percent better on a memory test than the placebo group.[49]
  • Young adults who engage in regular aerobic activities preserve their memory skills for middle age. In the CARDIA study, better verbal memory at ages 43-55 was clearly associated with better cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) 25 years earlier.[50]

Running protects the brain against aging

Cognitive decline can be hard to reverse. However, it has been shown that running comes with positive benefits in term of both neurogenesis (the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain) and protection of the existing neurons.
  • Physical activity early in life might have a protective effect on people’s brains as they age, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. University of Toronto researchers have discovered that rats who ran a great deal in youth (5 to 10 kilometers per day), demonstrated increased formation of new neurons in the adult brain.[51]
  • It seems, however, that it is never too late to start protecting your brain from cognitive decline. When sedentary adults started a moderate walking regimen, even after the age of 65, their brains still increased in size and function. Exercise training increased hippocampal volume by 2%, reversing age-related loss in volume by 1 to 2 years.[52]
  • In another large study of adults in their 70s, higher leisure and physical activity was associated with less shrinkage in white matter, less damage to the brain wiring, and increased volumes of grey matter. Interestingly, subjects who reported engaging in more intellectual pursuits rather than physical activities didn’t show the same protective benefits.[53]
  • For these and other benefits to happen, runners need to avoid social isolation. Studies on rats demonstrate that social isolation prevents the positive effects of short-term exercise on adult neurogenesis.[54]

Running boosts creativity

We already know that aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, thereby improving memory. Since this area of the brain is also partly responsible for the ability to imagine the future and think creatively, the exercise-induced brain changes might also improve our imagination.
  • After 16 sessions of 20-minute runs, students demonstrated small but significant gains in Remote Consequences and Alternate Uses, but not on Obvious Consequences Test.[55]
  • A different study carried out a year later found that both short- and long-term bouts of running improve performance on all three creativity measures.[56]
  • A comparison of an aerobic exercise program with a traditional physical education class revealed that aerobic conditioning not only boosted children’s figural creativity, but also improved their self-perception.[57]

Running and its beauty benefits

Running will give you a toned body and help you keep your weight down, but it can do wonders for your overall beauty, too, including making your hair and skin look glowing.

Running keeps the skin looking young and healthy

Oxidative stress can be visible on the skin with aging, while age and lifestyle-specific hormonal imbalances contribute to frequent breakouts. Running and an active lifestyle in general can act against these two phenomenons.
  • Regular moderate activity can keep the skin looking young by protecting against ROS/RNS oxidative damage.[58]
  • Increased sweating, coupled with increased blood stimulation, helps unclog the pores by pushing out impurities and old sebum residues. With proper post-workout skincare routine, this can help battle acne in the long run.
Running reduces cellulite Excessive numbers of fat cells increase the appearance of cellulite. By toning up the muscles, tightening the skin, and increasing blood circulation, running can greatly reduce the visibility of the so-called orange peel. Uphill interval running is thought to be the ultimate anti-cellulite exercise.[59] Running can help your hair grow faster and look ravishing Increased blood circulation pumps blood with precious nutrients to you scalp — right to the hair follicles. This is believed to stimulate hair growth, strengthen hair at the roots roots, and thus prevent excessive hair fall.

Running, fat and healthy BMI

There’s an ongoing debate about the most weight loss friendly type of training, and research is quite inconclusive in this area. Is it weights or a cardio workout that helps shed most pounds? Recent guidelines on exercise for weight maintenance include resistance training as part of the exercise regimen, but, as research suggests, it may not be the golden rule and the exercise prescription should be largely dependent on body mass, lifestyle, and weight loss goals.

Running promotes weight loss

Running on average burns 11.4 calories per minute at a pace of one mile in 10 minutes, so it is only natural to believe that consistent moderate intensity running regimens promote weight loss. While this is a bit of an oversimplification and you shouldn’t focus on steady-state cardio to reduce considerable amounts of body fat, there’s definitely a way to make regular jogs a part of your weight-loss plan.
  • Runners who run at least 5km per week for a year normally lose around 5.5kg of body fat, provided it is combined with a diet change.[60] So running can be an effective method for losing weight, considerably more effective than walking.[61] However, many average runners might not see a weight loss to this extent. Average aerobic recommendations might only come with a 2kg average weight loss.[62]
  • Age-related weight gain occurs even among the most vigorously active individuals when exercise is constant. Running needs to be increased with age to maintain a healthy BMI rate to 4.4 km per week annually in men and 6.2 km per week annually in women.[63]
  • Obese adults might need to combine aerobic training with resistance training for optimum weight loss results. Otherwise, it appears that aerobic training alone is the optimal mode of exercise for reducing body fat and body mass.[64]

Running reduces belly fat

Running can work for lower body weight. But it also tackles belly fat, which is largely associated with cardiovascular issues in both men and women.
  • A study involving Mexican-American and Korean Premenopausal Women who completed 12 weeks of training at 50–56% maximal oxygen consumption (walking or running at treadmill five times per week) demonstrates that low-intensity training may significantly reduce BMI, fat mass, fat percentage, and visceral adipose tissue.[65]
  • Those looking to maximize belly fat reduction need to increase the intensity of the running sessions. Subcutaneous fat and total abdominal fat can be tackled with higher intensity training sessions, although the study was limited to obese women with the metabolic syndrome.[66]

Running can build muscle

Muscle burns more calories at rest than other tissues. Therefore, building muscle is the key to increasing your resting metabolism. While weight training is more effective than cardio in this respect, in reality, a good muscle mass can be not only maintained during running, but also increased with the right diet.
  • The anabolic potential of aerobic exercise is comparable to that of resistance training, especially in the elderly. A study conducted in 67±2 year old men and women demonstrated a ~9% increase in quadriceps femoris muscle volume after 12 weeks of knee extension exercise.[67] The results are not different from what was revealed in a series of studies that implemented 12 weeks of cycle ergometer training (the last 5 weeks consisting of 4 days/week, 45 min/day, 80% HRR). The mean increase in skeletal muscle volume was ~8% in groups of elderly men and women, as well as young men.[68]
  • The effectiveness of aerobic training to stimulate skeletal muscle hypertrophy most probably depends on obtaining adequate exercise intensity (70-80% HRR), frequency (4-5 days per week), and duration (30-45 minutes).[69]
  • Endurance exercise (60-min of cycle ergometry at 72% Vo2 max) was associated with increased synthesis of mixed muscle proteins (~50–60%).[70]
  • Aerobic exercise can improve muscle strength and function throughout the life span[71], the implication being that long-term aerobic training can enhance the quality of life by improving the functional capacity in adults.

The social benefits of running

Social scientists have also long speculated about the benefits of physical activity for social cohesion. Now a substantial body of research confirms it. Running can improve human interaction, create communities and increase the relationship bond, and as such, contribute to better exercise performance, as shown in research. Running improves social life through raising self-esteem The positive impact of physical activity on mental well-being is not only a widely accepted belief, but a fact corroborated with research results. Be it due to social support, a sense of mastery, or changes in serotonin levels, running, and physical activity in general, boost self-esteem. And positive self-worth is the foundation for an improved social life, especially in adolescents.
  • Physical activity can lead to improved self-esteem among adolescent girls, particularly for younger girls and those at greatest risk of being overweight. Higher physical activity at ages 9 and 11 years predicted higher self-esteem at ages 11 and 13 years respectively, which was most apparent at age 11 and for girls with above-average BMI.[72] Due to increased self-confidence, these girls may be more likely to reach out to others and get involved in social interactions more often.
Running enhances social bonding and improves performance Studies reveal that there may be a reciprocal relationship between physical activity performed in groups and social bonding.
  • Sustained aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity (approx. 70–85% of MHR) — as opposed to low (approx. 45%) or high (approx. 90%) intensities — induces activity in the endocannabinoid system, generating feelings of pleasure, wellbeing, and euforia, often referred to as “runner’s high”.[73] It has been proposed that the positive feelings associated with these effects are conducive to team bonding.[74]
  • A large body of research in social and sport psychology indicates that there is an association between group bonding and enhanced exercise performance.[75]


What are the benefits of running every day?

Running every day is often seen as a cause of concern. But if done properly it can come with an impressive list of benefits.
  • Those who run every day are expected to live longer.[76] Runners are expected to live more by an average of 5 years.
  • However, resting is important for muscle recovery. At least two days per week should be off days, especially when running on the long-term basis.[77] Mild recovery rate improvements can be achieved with solutions such as compression clothing for those who prefer to run every day.[78]

Is running recommended during pregnancy?

Running during the first months of pregnancy is a matter of debate. While each case should be discussed individually, there is some scientific evidence to start from.
  • Recreational running is not associated with premature delivery.[79] There are no side effects at any stage. Even more, running during pregnancy can increase pelvic floor muscles. Natural delivery increases for women who run by 27%.
  • As opposed to the global sedentary problem for expecting mothers, running comes with benefits both for them and for the fetus. Physical activity during pregnancy comes with improved cardiovascular function, less weight gain and reduced incidence of cramps while fetuses develop an improved stress tolerance.[80] 30 minutes of running should be enough every day.
  • But running is not recommended for all women and all conditions. For example, pregnant women are not recommended to run at maximum capacity even up to 25 degrees Celsius and 45% relative humidity.[81]

Are there benefits to running in the morning?

Running in the morning comes with proven health benefits. They include better sleep and a higher energy levels for the rest of the day.
  • Running in the morning comes with the first benefits after 3 weeks.[82] They include better sleep, an improved mood and better focus ability.
  • Training in the morning is not necessarily better than in the evening. Aerobic exercise duration and intensity are variables to take into account. This being said, it is shown that the endurance capacity for aerobic training such as running can be higher in the morning for up to 60 minutes.[83]
  • Running in the morning can be better, but it also requires longer warmups to increase core temperature.[84]
  • Obese runners can benefit from morning runs as they can increase satiety.[85] These runs are recommended to be in the interval from 8 AM to 10 AM.

I can only run a mile a day. Is it enough?

It is often believed running needs to be long and tedious to show its full benefits. But there is a new study which shows that even running a single mile every day can reduce the impact of sedentary lifestyles and improve body composition for children.[86]
  • Cardiovascular benefits can also be seen with low mileage. The first 6 miles of running is where these benefits lie.[87] Running a few miles per week also comes with an increased life expectancy.[88] Even more, running up to 30 minutes in a single session doesn’t come with drawbacks such as stiffness in the Achilles Tendon.[89]

Is running on concrete worse than asphalt?

Running on different surfaces is perceived differently by runners. While running on all surfaces can come with some pressure on the joints, many runners believe running on hard surfaces impacts them the most.
  • The legs have strong adaptation ability with natural biomechanics. While injury risk is not particularly different on asphalt as compared to concrete, the faster shock dispersion on these surfaces limits this adaptation which naturally dampens strides.[90] Actually, a natural adaptation of leg stiffness occurs even from the first step.[91]
  • Those concerned about shock absorption can consider running on rubber-modified asphalt.[92] This is specifically applicable to those who run often[93] as softer surfaces can be a better choice for these runners. When it comes to the sexes, women show a reduced risk of injury. This risk increases after the 40-mile weekly running limit.[94]

What are the benefits of long-distance running?

Long-distance running is often associated with both benefits and drawbacks. While it can come with certain benefits such as promoting fat loss and improving cardiovascular health, it also has a distinct set of disadvantages, especially for the untrained runner.
  • From an evolutionary perspective, both the skeletal and the stabilization mechanisms can adapt for long-distance running.[95] Furthermore, ultra-marathon runners are generally healthier with fewer sick days compared to most runners.[96]
  • But studies show particular drawbacks to long-distance running such as in osteoarthritis and the coronary artery health.[97] In all circumstances, long-distance runners should prioritize hydration, even with short 5-10 minute runs at a speed of 6mph.[98]
  • In minutes, long-distance running can be considered anything close to 100 minutes per week.[99] It is generally recommended to discuss long-distance running effects with a doctor to avoid health issues such as an arrhythmogenic heart.[100] However, long-term drawbacks of long-distance running may not be as harmful as expected for healthy individuals.[101]

Is running better than cycling for weight loss?

As an issue of debate, there are two sides arguing for cycling and for running. But in terms of endurance performance, they are the same. So it might be a deal of personal preference above all.
  • Both cycling and running come with a similar positive effect on endurance performance. Their results are at 52% maximum fat oxidation with 500 calories consumed per training session.[102]
  • In terms of the timeframe to see results, both running and cycling benefits can be seen within 5-week of training.[103]
  • From the perspective of the athletes, there might be some differences. One of them comes with ventilation, which might be impaired during cycling.[104] On the other hand, these exercises can improve local muscle oxygenation, with an advantage to cycling in this respect.[105]

Are there any benefits to running on a treadmill?

Running on the treadmill might not be appealing to all people. It has its benefits and a few small drawbacks. But it can be a way to maintain good cardiovascular health during bad weather.
  • Running on a treadmill comes with lower air resistance which leads to lower energy costs.[106] This can be balanced by adjusting the treadmill incline from 1% to 3%. However, the differences in oxygenation are generally small.[107]
  • The linear profile of the treadmill also comes with locomotion patterns, which may lead to reduced biomechanical adaptation.[108] On the other hand, treadmills offer exact data, which is used to assess the general cardiovascular health of runners and should not be excluded from a training routine.[109]

What are the main benefits of running uphill?

Running uphill is not easy. It can cause muscle fatigue faster but it certainly has its distinct benefits.
  • Uphill running increases heart rate, oxygen intake, blood lactate levels, and the metabolic cost.[110]
  • Foot strike patterns are modified at a psychological level in this style of running.[111]
  • The adaption to incline and decline surfaces prevents injuries. In this situation, good running shoes can aid runners in injury prevention, reduced leg stiffness and with plantar pressure.[112]

Is running bad for your knees?

Running impacts the knees. But it does so at different levels for each individual. However, it also triggers a self-repair mechanism of the joints which is higher than that of non-runners.
  • Deformation of the tibiofemoral cartilage occurs with running. Chondrocytes may balance the impact of the extra weight on the joints, although unclear to what degree.[113]
  • But running can also reduce the need for hip replacement, mainly due to a lower BMI.[114]
  • At a large scale, nobody can say for sure if running is to blame for conditions such as osteoarthritis.[115]

What benefits are there for interval running?

Interval running is popular from a young age to adulthood. However, it might take more than a few sessions to see its benefits.
  • Interval training improves cardiorespiratory fitness and 5km results.These routines are recommended 3 times per week.[116] An example of interval running can start with 8 seconds of sprinting followed by 12 seconds of slow running.
  • Athletes can use interval running as a method for boosting short-term endurance and anaerobic performance.[117] However, this type of running does not actually improve the biomechanical parameters of running.[118]

Why do runners train at high altitudes?

An old-school training method uses running at high altitudes to improve overall fitness levels. But the actual proof of this is highly debatable.
  • The effectiveness of improved hematological variables at high altitudes might not be worth prioritization for runners.[119]
  • Most runners are truly at risk of developing high altitude illness above 2.500m, but they might need to train in these locations to avoid further health issues if preparing for a race.[120]

Is running good for weight loss?

Running is effective for weight loss. Over a long period of time, it can aid weight management. It works at all ages and for both sexes.
  • Running at 5mph burns at least 240 calories in 12 minutes.[121]
  • Furthermore, running also improves the metabolic rate even after a running session. A 45-minute running session increases the metabolic rate up to 14 hours.[122]
  • Running is a full body exercise and it is recommended to burn calories both for amateurs and for athletes.[123]
  • If running is used for weight loss purposes, it is recommended that runners set distance objectives instead of time objectives. Energy expenditure can be at least 38% higher when calculated by distance.[124]

Are there benefits to running in the cold?

Running in the cold might sound uncomfortable, but it can actually boost running performance. This might not apply to all runners, but there is supporting evidence to motivate athletes of all levels.
  • Running in the cold tackles overheating, which is the main limitation for running performance. The average pace during the winter runs appears to be about 1 minute per mile faster than in the summer.[125]
  • When it comes to performance running, runners need to see the issue differently and expect being affected psychologically when exposed to cold temperatures. These cool temperatures are usually considered to be under 18°C at a minimum humidity of 70%.[126]

Is running bad for your back?

Running is not necessarily associated with back pain. Those experiencing back pain should look further at its causes as shown by scientific research.
  • Running and other types of exercises can strengthen the muscles and they can lead to better back flexibility with reduced back pain, but not in acute circumstances. 30-40 minutes training sessions are recommended in this instance.[127]
  • Those with mild back pain can use exercises to strengthen the area, which might not require taking a break from running.[128]
  • For the intervertebral discs, running is actually beneficial. Runners have more hydrated intervertebral discs by up to 11.4%.[129]

Why are runners skinny?

Professional runners are often skinny. This is the result of the high-intensity training they put in or the result of the high caloric consumption.
  • Runners are also perceived skinny in comparison to the obesity prevalence in Western societies.[130] At the same time, runners can also gain weight, but mainly when decreasing exercise duration from 32-48km per week to 0-8km per week.[131]
  • Those who want to start running need to know the sport can also counteract diet-induced weight gain.[132]


[1] Physical Activity, Health Benefits, and Mortality Risk

[2] Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk


Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk

[4] Walking and running produce similar reductions in cause-specific disease mortality in hypertensives

[5] Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Etiologic Evidence and Biological Mechanisms

[6] Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Etiologic Evidence and Biological Mechanisms

[7] Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Etiologic Evidence and Biological Mechanisms

[8] Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Etiologic Evidence and Biological Mechanisms

[9] Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Etiologic Evidence and Biological Mechanisms

[10] Changes in selected fitness parameters following six weeks of snowshoe training

[11] Effects of aerobic exercise on lung function in overweight and obese students

[12] The effect of endurance running training on asthmatic adults

[13] Effects of Nasal or Oral Breathing on Anaerobic Power Output and Metabolic Responses

[14] Walking and running are associated with similar reductions in cataract risk

[15] Relationship of Incident Glaucoma versus Physical Activity and Fitness in Male Runners

[16] Effects of Running and Walking on Osteoarthritis and Hip Replacement Risk

[17] High-intensity intermittent "5-10-15" running reduces body fat, and increases lean body mass, bone mineral density, and performance in untrained subjects

[18] Exercise and knee osteoarthritis: benefit or hazard?

[19] Increasing Running Step Rate Reduces Patellofemoral Joint Forces

[20] Menopause: Overview

[21] Physical Activity, Menopause, and Quality of Life: The Role of Affect and Self-Worth across Time

[22] Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence

[23] A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue

[24] Endurance exercise rescues progeroid aging and induces systemic mitochondrial rejuvenation in mtDNA mutator mice

[25] Exploring exercise as an avenue for the treatment of anxiety disorders

[26] Exercise for stress and anxiety

[27] Can the Brain Benefits of Exercise Be Enhanced Without Additional Exercise?

[28] Comparison of aerobic exercise, clomipramine, and placebo in the treatment of panic disorder

[29] Association between physical activity and mental disorders among adults in the United States

[30] Acute exercise ameliorates reduced brain-derived neurotrophic factor in patients with panic disorder

[31] The association between physical exercises and health-related quality of life in subjects with mental disorders: results from a cross-sectional survey

[32] Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression.

[33] Exercise treatment for major depression: maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months

[34] Aerobic exercise and cognitive therapy in the treatment of dysphoric moods

[35] Running as treatment for depression.

[36] Exercise Leads to Better Clinical Outcomes in Those Receiving Medication Plus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder

[37] A Longitudinal Assessment of the Links Between Physical Activity and Self-Esteem in Early Adolescent Non-Hispanic Females

[38] Exercise Effects on Depressive Symptoms and Self-Worth in Overweight Children

[39] Physical activity and self-esteem: testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanisms

[40] Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults

[41] Lifelong Aerobic Exercise Reduces the Stress Response in Rats

[42] The Runner's High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain

[43] The Runner's High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain

[44] Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia

[45] Exercise to Improve Sleep in Insomnia: Exploration of the Bidirectional Effects

[46] A meta-analytic review of the effects of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor

[47] High impact running improves learning

[48] High impact running improves learning

[49] Dopamine improves long-term memory

[50] Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: the CARDIA study

[51] Early-Age Running Enhances Activity of Adult-Born Dentate Granule Neurons Following Learning in Rats

[52]Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory

[53] Neuroprotective lifestyles and the aging brain: activity, atrophy, and white matter integrity.

[54] Social isolation delays the positive effects of running on adult neurogenesis

[55] Effects of a systematic program of exercise on selected measures of creativity

[56] The enhancement of creativity through long and short term exercise programs

[57] The effects of aerobic training on children's creativity, self-perception, and aerobic power.

[58] Oxidative stress and skin diseases: possible role of physical activity


[60] Does running with or without diet changes reduce fat mass in novice runners? A 1-year prospective study

[61] Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up

[62] The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance

[63] The effects of changing exercise levels on weight and age-related weight gain

[64] Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults

[65] Effects of Exercise Training on Fat Loss and Lean Mass Gain in Mexican-American and Korean Premenopausal Women

[66] Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition

[67] Influence of acetaminophen and ibuprofen on skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance exercise in older adults.

[68] Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy after Aerobic Exercise Training

[69] ibid.

[70] Muscle protein synthesis and gene expression during recovery from aerobic exercise in the fasted and fed states

[71] Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise

[72] A Longitudinal Assessment of the Links Between Physical Activity and Self-Esteem in Early Adolescent Non-Hispanic Females

[73] Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity.

[74] The brain opioid theory of social attachment: a review of the evidence

[75] Cohesion and performance in sport: a meta-analysis

[76] Longevity in Male and Female Joggers: The Copenhagen City Heart Study

[77] Relationship Between Running Performance and Recovery-Stress State in Collegiate Soccer Players.

[78] Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing?

[79] Is recreational running associated with earlier delivery and lower birth weight in women who continue to run during pregnancy? An international retrospective cohort study of running habits of 1293 female runners during pregnancy

[80] Physical activity and pregnancy: cardiovascular adaptations, recommendations and pregnancy outcomes.

[81] Heat stress and fetal risk. Environmental limits for exercise and passive heat stress during pregnancy: a systematic review with best evidence synthesis

[82] Daily Morning Running for 3 Weeks Improved Sleep and Psychological Functioning in Healthy Adolescents Compared With Controls

[83] Morning and evening exercise

[84] Comparison of physiological responses to morning and evening submaximal running.

[85] Acute Effect of Morning and Afternoon Aerobic Exercise on Appetite of Overweight Women

[86] The Daily Mile makes primary school children more active, less sedentary and improves their fitness and body composition: a quasi-experimental pilot study

[87] Running Reduces Risk of Death Regardless of Duration, Speed

[88] Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk

[89] The effects of a 30-min run on the mechanics of the human Achilles tendon.

[90] The biomechanics of running on different surfaces.

[91] Runners adjust leg stiffness for their first step on a new running surface.

[92] Surface effects on ground reaction forces and lower extremity kinematics in running

[93] Preventing running-related injuries using evidence-based online advice: the design of a randomised-controlled trial

[94] Injuries in Runners; A Systematic Review on Risk Factors and Sex Differences

[95] Long-Distance Running: An Investigation Into its Impact on Human Health

[96] Long-distance running: running for a long life?

[97] The Exercise Rehabilitation Paradox: Less May Be More?

[98] Long-distance running in the heat

[99] Long Distance Running and Knee Osteoarthritis A Prospective Study

[100] Is the 'athlete's heart' arrhythmogenic? Implications for sudden cardiac death.

[101] Is marathon running toxic? An observational study of cardiovascular disease prevalence and longevity in 54 male marathon runners

[102] Effects of Cycling vs. Running Training on Endurance Performance in Preparation for Inline Speed Skating

[103] Effect of run vs combined cycle/run training on VO2max and running performance

[104] Physiological differences between cycling and running: lessons from triathletes

[105] The effect of running versus cycling high-intensity intermittent exercise on local tissue oxygenation and perceived enjoyment in 18-30-year-old sedentary men

[106] A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running.

[107] Aerobic requirements of overground versus treadmill running

[108] Aerobic requirements of overground versus treadmill running

[109] Cardiovascular aspects of running

[110] A Paradigm of Uphill Running

[111] Biomechanics and Physiology of Uphill and Downhill Running

[112] Biomechanical Changes During a 50-minute Run in Different Footwear and on Various Slopes

[113] The effect of physical activity on the knee joint: is it good or bad?

[114] Effects of Running and Walking on Osteoarthritis and Hip Replacement Risk

[115] Running and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

[116] Four Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves 5-km Run Performance.

[117] Six Sessions of Sprint Interval Training Improves Running Performance in Trained Athletes

[118] Usage of Running Drills in an Interval Training Program: Implications Related to Biomechanical Parameters of Running

[119] The Effects of Altitude Training on Erythropoietic Response and Hematological Variables in Adult Athletes: A Narrative Review

[120] Athletes at High Altitude

[121] Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights

[122] A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours

[123] Muscle contributions to propulsion and support during running

[124] Non-Exchangeability of Running vs. Other Exercise in Their Association with Adiposity, and Its Implications for Public Health Recommendations

[125] Why is it easier to run in the cold?

[126] Effects of prolonged running in the heat and cool environments on selected physiological parameters and salivary lysozyme responses

[127] A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain

[128] Exercise in the Management of Chronic Back Pain

[129] Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc

[130] Exercise attenuates the association of body weight with diet in 106,737 runners

[131] Asymmetric Weight Gain and Loss from Increasing and Decreasing Exercise

[132] Exercise attenuates the association of body weight with diet in 106,737 runners