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Runner Tips

What does running do for your body? 5 benefits new runners might notice

Two runners jog alongside a painted wall
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Running can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. But despite all that stepping we do, running is much more than just a great workout for your legs — it's a whole-body experience. So, what does running do for your body, exactly? Here are five benefits of running beginners might notice.

You may have started running for the apparent benefits: a great workout, a strong, lean body, and an overall healthy lifestyle. All are valid reasons to log your miles. But there are many other, less obvious, ways running can have a positive impact on your body — and your quality of life.

5 benefits of running for your mind, body, and soul

Here are five holistic, whole-body benefits runners can look forward to on the roads (or trails).

1. Running can improve your heart and lungs

There aren't many activities that benefit your cardiovascular system more than running, and it doesn't take long to reap those benefits. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded that running, even five to 10 minutes a day and at less than 6 miles per hour, is associated with a markedly reduced risk of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.

When you run, your lungs bring oxygen into your body. This supplies energy and removes carbon dioxide, the waste product created when you produce energy. Your heart then pumps oxygen to the muscles you use to run. According to the American Lung Association, your body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it to the working muscles as you become more physically fit. That's one of the reasons you are less likely to become short of breath during exercise over time.

Running can also strengthen the diaphragm and muscles between the ribs that work together to power inhaling and exhaling. Breathing exercises like pursed lip breathing or belly breathing can also make your lungs more efficient.

Runner running along beautiful scenery.

2. Running can improve your muscle and bone strength

When you run, you're putting big muscle groups to work, like your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, making them all stronger and more useful during everyday activities. The most obvious bodily beneficiary to staying in stride are your legs. They stand the most to gain from regular runs. They are also the most vulnerable to injury, so it's important to take care of them while you're training. Brooks Beasts athletic trainer Sarah Bair focuses on three key mechanisms to help runners avoid injury: soft tissue elasticity, joint mobility, and muscle activation.

You also pull in your core muscles, and even smaller muscle groups you might not recognize, like your back, hips, calf muscles, and even your upper body. Working on your core muscles (abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors) can help you with flexibility, balance, and endurance.

Another advantage of running is strengthening your bones. Because running is a weight-bearing exercise, it helps stress and rebuild your bones, which is especially important as you age and start losing bone mass.

3. Running can boost your mood

Everyone's mental and emotional health has been tested at one time or another, and even more so after the past few years. One of the best ways to cope and boost your mood is to lace up and run some miles — the "runner's high" is real.

Plenty of research has proven the mind-body connection between exercise and mood. In fact, a study in The Journal of Experimental Biology revealed running might positively impact your mood in ways similar to cannabis. What's at work? Running fires up powerful feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, leaving you happier for longer. Running can also help you process complex emotions, a moving therapy session of sorts. Another study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory revealed that exercise is a practical method to protect learning and memory mechanisms from the negative cognitive impact of chronic intermittent stress on the brain. This can reduce stress, help you solve problems on the go, and return you more ready to handle all that life may send your way.

Running can even unlock mindfulness. At Brooks, we call that Runfulness. It's the effect of a run that's so good, so freeing, it allows you to forget your feet altogether — taking your mind to places your feet can't go. Running can spark self-improvement or catalyze plans or ideas that could make the world around you a better place.

Runner running along the canal walk

4. Running can help your sleep

One impact of the pandemic has been a lack of sleep, as worries about the unknown have led to a spike in insomnia. The good news is that running can benefit your sleep. Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health has demonstrated that in just three short weeks, consistent running can improve your ability to fall asleep. It delivers a dose of fresh air and sunshine, gets you away from your devices, and tires you out just enough to help increase your ZZZs. And we know that sleep is magic — it increases your ability to fight disease, improves focus, boosts your mood, and gives you needed energy to get through the day.

5. Running can help you fight off disease

Going back to those cardiovascular benefits, mental health benefits, and muscle and bone strength benefits, running can go a long way in helping you stave off lifestyle diseases. These include heart disease, diabetes, and potentially even some types of cancer. The odds are you'll live a longer, higher-quality life with regular running in your life. Who doesn't want a dose of that?

Enjoy the wonderful effects of running

What does running do for your body? The answer is clear: The whole-body advantages of running are proven and numerous, and once you get into a regular habit of hitting the pavement or dirt, you're well on your way to better overall health. Most of all, running is fun, so grab your shoes, your friends, and map out a route to reap all its unexpected benefits.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Alina Steiner

Brooks staff writer

I'm a true Pacific Northwest gal with a passion for golden retrievers, live music, flannel, and the outdoors. I run, albeit not fast, and I definitely #willrunforfroyo.