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Runners, research shows, take the sport up both for its physical and mental benefits. Once they start, they find they're naturally much less dependent on addictive substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and excess food — perhaps because running is itself also quite addictive? They also think they sleep better and eat more nutritious foods.

Are runners' perceptions of the benefits of their sport correct? Yes — and they also go much further. 

What Are The Benefits Of Running?

Running regularly, even as little as five to 10 minutes a day at a slow pace, has been shown to reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by as much as half! Not only is running one of the best forms of cardio exercise, improved heart health may also be due to secondary factors associated with it. That is, over 80 percent of men and 75 percent of women who were smokers when they took up running kick their nasty nicotine addiction when they begin running for pleasure. Overweight and obese people who start running inevitably lose weight. Given the fact that running is an excellent way to burn calories, that's hardly a surprise. 

The benefits running has on your physical health can continue long after you've retired from the sport, as runners have stronger bones — their risk of developing osteoarthritis is lower than it would be if they had never started running. 

The endorphins you release on a run make you feel great — there's a reason you're on a real high when you've been for a run, whether your personal best is a 4K or a full marathon. Regular running, as such, improves your mental health. Running can even greatly improve the long-term quality of life in people suffering from depression and social isolation, studies confirm. 

The best thing? The vast majority of people who start training for a race are still running a year later! Once people get a taste for speed, it seems running literally becomes the gift that keeps on giving. 

Anecdotally, there are a few reasons for that. Every new runner I've come across becomes transformed by the experience. Running motivates them to reexamine their lifestyles and become healthier people, and pushes them to see what else they can achieve. A jog easily becomes a half marathon, and beyond. If you'd like to start running but are skeptical that this will happen to you, don't discount the experience of a community of runners, who genuinely push each other in the most positive way possible. 

Any Downsides?

An estimated one third of runners becomes injured within a year of starting the sport. The more you run in a given week, the higher that risk becomes. 

Besides that, anyone with a medical condition who isn't sure they should be running are always wise to check in with their physicians before they take the plunge — and if given the green light, to build their mileage up very gradually. On the whole, however, running is a suitable sport for anyone, from tweenage to old age. 

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