If you’re not running, you’re basically doomed. Okay, maybe not doomed, but possibly heading down the misery path of no sex, no smarts, and no pulse. Everyone on the planet knows running is great for weight loss and really hot quads, but it’s becoming more and more clear that running has benefits that far exceed the superficial. In other words, if you want to have a more rewarding life, you should probably stop procrastinating and start lacing up those sneakers stat.
1. You’ll be helping the economy
Look, it takes a lot of work to invent those pace-recording watches, moisture-wicking clothes, heart rate-notifying ear buds, and cadence-enhancing socks. You get all the health and social benefits of being a runner, plus you quietly get to pat yourself on the back for fueling a gazillion-dollar industry that is creating jobs in our workforce.
2. You’ll turn down that 5th drink
Studies have shown that runners drink less alcohol. Why? It slows down their reflexes, dehydrates them, makes them vulnerable to cramps, and slows recovery time.
3. Your partner might thank you
There’s no easy way to say it. No one wants a partner who needs to pop a pill to get things going. And running is a great way to stave off those prescriptions. As Dr. Ben Michaelis, a prominent NYC-based clinical evolutionary psychologist who focuses on motivation, mental well being, and relationships says, “It’s not rocket science. Blood flow is blood flow is blood flow. And if you’ve gained weight, the heart has to work harder to get the blood to travel further.” And you know whose heart is not going to wait if you can’t perform? That person you got into bed with to begin with.
4. You won’t lose your temper
And that can be a good thing, whether at the office or at home. “I would say running gives you more time, even if it’s a quarter of a second more,” says Dr. Michaelis. “If you are someone who is prone to anger, running is not going to stop you from being angry. But what it will do, right before you’re about to lose it, you have that extra time to pull it back from the edge.” On the down side, sometimes it feels good to yell at a telemarketer.
5. Your brain will stay young
According to Dr. Michaelis, the human brain has to work harder as it ages to complete tasks that once wouldn’t require as much effort. “There’s recent research that indicates running is essentially making people younger,” he says. “Men who do cardiovascular exercise their whole lives have the brain patterns of 20 year olds even when they’re in their 50s.” So, you can keep lying about your age well into your 50’s? Well, maybe just to yourself.
6. You won't forget where you put your keys
A 12-year study by Dr. Paul Williams published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in late 2014 indicated that running more than 15 miles a week (don’t panic; that’s just three miles a day, taking off both Saturday and Sunday) reduces the risk of dying from Alzheimer’s Disease by 40 percent. Bonus: That's a crazy amount of percents, yo.
7. You may avoid the dreaded C word
We all live in fear of the big cancer diagnosis, but very few things have such a direct link to reducing risk as running. Running has proven in study after study (from a case study in Breast Cancer Research Magazine to the Epidemiology Research Program at the American Cancer Society to a review of 170 epidemiological studies on the relationship between physical activity and cancer in the Journal of Nutrition) to be beneficial in lowering the risk to colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer.
8. You'll finally finish that novel
We’ve established that running does good things for your brain, in terms of not aging. But all that exercise on a regular basis also as a “cognitive enhancer promoting creativity,” cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato wrote in an article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Also, if you can train yourself to run a marathon, surely you can train yourself to finish a chapter. Maybe that’s why everyone from Louisa May Alcott to Henry David Thoreau were moved by moving their legs. Or why celebrated novelist Haruki Murakami wrote in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, “Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day."
9. You can stay calm, minus the mantras
Considering meditation is all about sitting still, it might come as a surprise that running provides some of the same benefits as sitting in lotus position and repeating a mantra in your head. “What we’re finding with studies on meditation is that the key is the repetition,” says Dr. Michaelis. “The repetition connects to the parietal lobe in your brain, which is your feeling of calm, of spirituality. Doing the same movement over and over, whether it’s running, or praying with rosary beads, seems to give the same response as meditation.” If only the Buddha had known, he could have gone for a jog and lost some of that belly.
10. You can see who your real friends are
Let’s face it, you donated money to that marathon raising money for your friend’s nephew’s summer camp scholarship fund. And you probably also sponsored that woman in the office you talk to once a year at the holiday party. Will the favor be returned when you ask for sponsorship at your next 10K? If the cash doesn’t start rolling in, (for a great cause, of course) maybe you know it’s time for some new friends. Might we suggest a running club?