Stuck in a rut? 21 reasons to run in 2021

Kerry McCarthy and Rick Pearson
·7-min read
Photo credit: jacoblund - Getty Images
Photo credit: jacoblund - Getty Images

From Runner's World

Improved physical and mental health, saving money, being better at sex and making more friends - these are just some of the reasons to get running in 2021. We might be biased but, when you look at it like that, there's basically no reason not to run this year.

It boosts your immune system

While running can’t protect you from Covid-19 – you’ll need the vaccine for that – it can seriously boost your immune system. Easy running bolsters our body’s natural immunity by circulating protective cells through the body faster, to fight off bacteria and viruses. Just be careful not to overdo it as over-training can actually weaken your immune system. As with all things, moderation is key.

It will make you happier

It’s official: runners are happier than the general population. In a study by Glaswegian Caledonian University, 89 per cent of parkrunners said the free weekly 5K made them happier. Moreover, measuring happiness via the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, in which participants self-score questions from 1 (down in the dumps) to 6 (jumping for joy), parkrunners scored an average of 4.4 compared with the general population, who score an average of 4.

It can help to manage depression

The past 12 months would challenge the equilibrium of even a Zen Buddhist. Running can help here, too. According to multiple studies credited by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America – as well as countless homegrown testimonials – running can reduce anxiety, boost your mental health and help you to relax. In fact it's one of the reasons we've launched our nationwide RunSome campaign along with our partner Active Things, aimed at getting more people to run more everyday journeys to form new habits, and help keep them on a more even keel through these strange times and beyond.

You’re still allowed to do it

As William Wallace almost said: ‘They can take our gyms but they’ll never take our… running.’ As one of the few forms of exercise that can be done alone and with practically zero equipment, running has remained possible and legal throughout the coronavirus pandemic. For many – including the staff at RW – it was a lifeline in 2020. And it will remain so this year.

It’s not bad for your knees

Like the idea that carrots help you to see in the dark, or that Michael McIntyre is funny, the claim that running is bad for your knees is a commonly held misconception based on ignorance. Studies, such as this one, show that running is actually good for your knees.

It will make you more productive

If you’re now having to lead a double-life as both ‘employee’ and ‘wholly unqualified teacher to housebound child’, you’re going to have to be more productive than an ant colony. Fortunately, there is a simple way to increase your focus and output. That’s right, running. Various studies, including this one on how running improves your grey matter, have shown that our noble sport makes you employee of the month, every month.

It could improve your sex life

Many runners report that running increases their desire for a roll in the hay. ‘Being active is a potent aphrodisiac for both women and men,’ said Tina Penhollow, an associate professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion at Florida Atlantic University. In an annual survey of runners by Brooks, 41 percent of respondents said they feel frisky after a run, with 54 percent being turned on by the energy boost and 51 percent saying it makes them feel strong and confident.

You were given some running kit for Christmas

You got new running shoes for Christmas and they only go with running gear. If you wear them with jeans, you risk looking like a time traveller from the 1980s or a middle-aged American man aiming for a casual look at the weekend.

Your memory will improve

What number were we on again? Oh yes. Running - similar to meditation in this respect - actually promotes brain growth especially in the Hippocampus region, the little seahorse-shaped part of the brain that is responsible for storing memories. Like that time you came third in the school cross country champs. Time to give it some new material.

It’s preferable to exercising at home

Running will be far preferable to exercising at home, which can put a great strain on your relationship with your family, all of whom claim doing step-ups on the coffee table is out of order. Even when they are not using it to make jigsaws.

Photo credit: Nevena1987 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Nevena1987 - Getty Images

It encourages you to be friendly

If you live in a busy city, running will, at last, allow you to acknowledge other people in the park (runners, in this case) and not have them worry that you want something from them.

It doesn’t cost much

Sure, if you want to you can spend an untold amount of money on the latest carbon fibre-plated trainers, merino wool tops, arch-supporting socks and Arctic-proof jackets; but at a basic level, all you really need to get going is an outfit that won’t chafe you to within an inch of your life and a pair of well-cushioned trainers. The rest you can work out as you progress.

It will improve your self-confidence

Endorphins flowing (that runner’s high you’ve heard about is real), body and mind working in sync, the sense of power and accomplishment you get from exercise will give a bounce effect to other areas of your life. And according to this NY times piece running is actually better than the gym for improving your self-confidence. So you don’t have to try and bench press your own bodyweight any more.

You’ll discover more about your neighbourhood

Ever wondered where that little alleyway down the side of the newsagents goes? And what about what lies beyond that playing field on the other side of the bridge? Well, lace up your trainers, stick some tunes (or the Runner's World podcast) in your ears and go find out. Running is sightseeing at speed, after all.

It’ll cut down on your car time

A quarter of all car journeys in the UK are half a mile or less. Leaving the keys in the bowl by the front door will not only make Mother Nature beam with relief but very likely you’ll get your errands done in less time and without the stress of trying to find a new parking space every few minutes.

It’s not seasonal

Running is weather- and month-agnostic. You can do it all year round and the only barriers to you getting your Forrest Gump on and keeping on going is your mind and your body. Plus, a change of season means you get to buy more new kit.

You’ll live longer

Fancy adding another 1946 days onto your life span? Thought so (imagine how many more episodes of Schitt’s Creek you could get through in that time). Studies have shown that regular cardiovascular exercise can add an average of 5.3 years onto your life expectancy. Not too shabby at all.

Your skin will thank you

Yes, not only will you become more toned and your muscles sleeker, but your skin will be glowing with health. According to this piece the increased blood flow from exercise will carry more nutrients to the skin cells, flush out debris and lower your stress hormone levels, the production of which can lead to oilier skin.

Photo credit: 10'000 Hours - Getty Images
Photo credit: 10'000 Hours - Getty Images

You’ll sleep better

There’s nothing like dropping into bed with mildly achy limbs and nodding off to an action reply of how you hurdled that massive puddle playing on a loop in your head. You’ll sleep the sleep of the just (and the smug) knowing you really earned your Z’s.

It’s good for both social animals and loners

Need some time by yourself where nobody can hassle you? Kit on, phone left behind, and off you go. Just you and your thoughts.

Feeling twitchy at staring at the same four walls all day on your lonesome? Call up a (carefully selected, bubble-friendly) pal for a trot, natter as you go and exult in both the feeling of movement and the fact that this is one catch up you’re not doing on Zoom.

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