5 Scientifically Proven Reasons To Go For A Run

by Megan Grant

Regular exercise is recommended for a variety of physical, mental, and emotional health reasons. In specific, there are scientifically proven reasons to go for a run that involve pain management and prevention, cognitive maintenance, and more. It's not as simple and straightforward as going for a run to decompress while also working on your cardio. Thanks to the chemicals that are released in our bodies, and the reactions happening in our brains and elsewhere, running plays host to a great variety of benefits that have been documented to have a substantial impact on all facets of your health.

Admittedly, I'm not much of a runner. My athletic endeavors lay more in the sport of weightlifting. But after everything I've read regarding the effect of regular aerobic exercise, I might have to make an easy, 30-minute jog a more regular habit. While it can be hard to find the time and energy to work out — what with the typical daily stressors of adult life, like work, family, and money — there are ways to make running more enjoyable. Create a playlist with your favorite jams, choose from the many apps that make working out fun, and hit the pavement. Science has given us all sorts of good reasons to go for a run.

1. Running Boosts Your Mood

I know what you're thinking: When you're feeling depressed, you don't exactly have the motivation to go for a run. But try to force yourself, because science has shown that it can totally change your mindset. In one recent study published in Cognition and Emotion, 80 participants were shown a sad scene from a movie. Afterward, they were assigned to either jogging (aerobic) or stretching (anaerobic). Those who ran reported feeling less sad, compared to those who stretched. Even people who said that they typically have a hard time controlling their emotions noticed a positive effect.

2. Running Can Help Alleviate Menstrual Cramps

As fun as cramps are (that is, not at all), if you're looking to get rid of them naturally, aerobic exercise like running is the way to go. When you exercise, your body releases beta-endorphins, your own form of morphine. Additionally, running can help to burn the prostaglandins (the period chemical that causes muscle contractions) a whole lot faster. If you're doubled over in cramps and your body is saying "hell no" to a jog, anything that gets your heart rate up will do — even a brisk walk.

3. Running Can Prevent A Whole Lot Of Diseases

In one study comparing the effects of exercise and medication in preventing death from coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and prediabetes, both methods were found to be equally effective for coronary heart disease and prediabetes. For the risk of stroke, exercise was actually more effective than drugs. Important: This is definitely not to say you should quite taking your medication; but you can always ask your doctor about how exercise may help your condition.

4. Running Is Good For Controlling And Reducing Stress

It's kind of a given that going for a nice jog can help you clear your mind and chill the heck out, but there's so much more to this than what most of us know. In one experiment, researchers used two groups of mice that were either allowed to run in a wheel, or were sedentary before being dropped in a bucket of cold water. For the mice that didn't run, their anxiety and stress were noticeably higher than those who did. The result is likely due to an anxiety-inhibiting neurotransmitter called GABA. The mice who ran had higher levels of GABA; and when scientists suppressed this, the running mice were just as stressed as the non-running mice.

5. Running Can Keep Your Brain Younger

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that running can help keep age-related mental decline at bay. Specifically, in stroke patients, exercise has been found to help improve memory, language, thinking, and judgment problems. And the difference is a whopping 50 percent. Positive changes in attention, concentration, and organization have also been noted many times.

Images: Joshua Sortino, Francesco Gallarotti, Kyle Kranz, Linh Nguyen, Chanan Greenblatt, Martins Zemlickis/Unsplash