Running is one of the most common physical activities for weight loss — and it makes sense why. It’s excessively convenient, and you really only need a pair of sneakers to do it. However, if you’ve ever taken off on a jog, motivation at your back, only to feel like stopping just a few yards into your workout, you know how tough it can be. It’s true: Running isn’t always easy, and it can be frustrating. But it’s worth it to stick it out for more than just the potential weight loss benefits.
“Running is so much more than just losing weight,” says Aaptiv trainer Ackeem Emmons. “It’s about uplifting you physically, mentally, and emotionally. A couple steps a day can go a very long way.” He’s right: The benefits run deep. We asked Emmons and other Aaptiv trainers to share why running is more than just a physical workout.
Running is an effective antidote to the taxing nature of an endlessly trying news cycle and the stress that builds with busy daily schedules. “When you run, you force your body to exert excess energy and hormones, resulting in stress relief,” Emmons says. “After an extremely long week, there’s nothing like a good long run to reflect, release, and rejuvenate.”
Taking time to run can also help create mental space to think about certain tasks or obligations that need our attention. Without the distractions of anything besides the workout, we can get into a productive headspace. “Sometimes I go on runs to work,” says Aaptiv trainer Meghan Takacs. “During my run, I think of things I want to do, cues I want to try in my recordings, and problems I want to solve. Then I use the endorphins to put it all into action post-run.”
Speaking of endorphins, running triggers our body to release a flood of them. “Running contributes to an increase in endorphins, but also levels of serotonin and norepinephrine,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham. These chemicals play a critical role in mood regulation and have been linked to fighting feelings of anxiety and depression.
“The endorphins have a direct impact on your overall mood and state of mind,” says Takacs. “For me, running is moving meditation and, the older I get, the more I realize I’m running for the mental health benefits, not the physical.”
Mental Toughness and Discipline
Running, as we know, has its challenges. Depending on the day, your mood, or the weather, it can take a lot of effort to tackle those miles. But that difficulty fosters something more powerful. “Running is a sport that requires focus and a good mentality,” Cunningham says. “It can get mundane, but pushing through those barriers builds running capacity and a healthier mindset. If you can push through uncomfortable moments during your run, you’ll build that mental toughness to push through challenging moments at work and in your relationships.”
To build that toughness, though, you need to be disciplined. “Runners need to schedule runs and workouts in order to progress,” Cunningham says. “That means running when you don’t want to or think you have better things to do.” That discipline results in a feeling of independence that translates to real life too.
“Running makes you tenacious and independent,” Takacs adds. “It makes you confident in your abilities to handle more difficult tasks in normal life. That self-reliance is critical if you’re an entrepreneur or want to create your own success in general.”
Discipline and mental toughness can help you repeatedly make strides in your running progress, which then breeds confidence. “Running is a major confidence boost,” Emmons says. “Hitting your goal — be it a specific distance or length of time — says a lot about you and it makes you feel happy. That attitude correlates to other aspects of your life. You become more self-motivated to achieve more goals outside of running.”
That motivation you get from accomplishing your running goals, big or small, can contribute to a cycle of success. One block quickly becomes one mile, which can eventually become a marathon. It may sound cheesy, but it really all starts with a single step.
(Photo via Getty)