Running is a physical activity that can improve cardiovascular health, build and tone muscles, increase bone density, strengthen lungs, boost your immune system and improve blood sugar levels. It can help you lose weight and improve your overall fitness level. But did you know that lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement or a local trail may also make you happier?

Many runners have touted the fact that they simply feel happier after they run. Referred to as a “runner’s high,” people can’t always put a finger on what it is exactly that makes them feel better after they run. All they can agree on is that they feel good during and after a run and it makes them want to keep doing it.

But there are valid reasons to explain why running can make you happier. These include:

Running releases endorphins

Running releases endorphins in the brain that can make you happier, more energetic and more awake. Endorphins are considered natural painkillers that help minimize discomfort. They can also help bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being. Scientists at the University of Montreal also discovered that the hormone leptin may be providing you with that euphoric feeling.

When you’re running, leptin levels fall, which can generate the rewarding feeling that you feel during exercise. That post-run glow may be fleeting, but who doesn’t enjoy some extra happiness in their lives, no matter how long it lasts? But don’t think that your post-run happiness is that short-lived. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that regular leisure physical activity is associated with greater long-term happiness.

Running is a great stress reliever

Having a bad day? Lacing up your sneakers and going out for a run is a great way to forget the stressors of the day. It gives you a chance to push your body, let your mind wander or sing to your favorite tunes.

Running helps you get in better physical shape

The activity can increase strength, tone your muscles and help you slim down. When you feel better physically, it can make you feel more empowered and better able to handle the challenges life throws your way.

Running provides you with a sense of accomplishment

It’s a sport that gives you a reason to set goals that you then strive to reach. Whether your goal is to run a marathon or simply to run to the next corner without stopping, working towards a goal and achieving it leads to happiness.

Running provides social connections

Although running seems like a solitary sport, something you only rely on yourself to do, the running community is very social. It’s easy to connect with others who enjoy running. You can meet new people by joining a running club, entering an endurance event or simply by smiling at other runners as you pass them on the street.

Sources:

http://www.active.com/running/articles/5-reasons-running-makes-you-happier

http://www.runnersworld.com/newswire/being-active-linked-to-long-term-happiness

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/09/01/scientists-have-discovered-why-running-makes-you-happy/

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/endorphins-exercise-cause-happiness/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23171884

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/health/nutrition/27best.html?_r=0

https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/10/23/does-running-make-you-happy/