Running is a simple way of getting outdoors and getting fit. All you need is a set of comfortable clothes and a pair of the best running shoes for men, or best running shoes for women. It's also never been more popular: the ongoing global health crisis closing gyms has led to a resurgence in people pounding the pavement.
It's well-documented that running leads (eventually) to better cardiovascular health and weight loss, helping people get fitter. However, what's less well-known is that running had a whole vista of benefits that occur in our body just 24 hours after a 30-45 minute run.
Firstly, your mood improves. If you struggle to enjoy running as-is, it might be helpful to know just 10 minutes of running can result in an increase in feelings of happiness, according to the Journal of Happiness Studies (opens in new tab). Bonus points if you're running by water, or through a park, or on a sunny day, as exposure to all these natural phenomena can reduce feelings of stress and improve feelings of well-being within 10 minutes, according to Cornell University (opens in new tab).
Even running in the cold and rain can help: one study (opens in new tab) found exposure to cold water can make you up to 29% less likely to call in sick for work, creating a better immune system, a more resilient mindset, and enhanced feelings of adrenaline as a result of this exposure to the elements.
If you've been stuck in the same few rooms during lockdown, running also provides that much-missed feeling of travel and changing surroundings that's lacking in home HIIT workouts.
As well as your mental health improving within minutes, you receive other benefits after your run which last all day. The Journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found a 45-minute bout of physical exercise raises our metabolic rate for a further 14 hours. This raising of your metabolism burns approximately 190 extra calories, in addition to whatever you torched on your run – you'll still be losing weight hours after you've finished.
Your productivity improves all day, too. If you've got an important deadline at work, consider running first thing in the morning, as researchers at the University of Bristol (opens in new tab) found those who exercised during the workday completed more tasks than those who didn't. As a form of exercise which is very accessible (no gym or specialist equipment required, beyond running shoes and maybe the best Fitbit) running is the perfect way to squeeze exercise into your lunch hour.
Finally, once you get to the end of the day, you can be safe in the knowledge you'll sleep a little easier, as it was found a single session of endurance exercise positively influenced the parameters related to sleep patterns. If you run in the morning, you'll carry the benefits with you all the way through the day until bedtime. Incidentally, the best diffuser for essential oils has also been found to boost sleep, using scents like lavender to lull you into dreamland.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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