Run this town

While not everyone is born to love running, it’s something that can easily be learned. Running is such an excellent way to work out your whole body, and has the potential to boost your confidence by way of setting and achieving goals. It’s a fun sport and is great for all body types. You don’t have to be an “athlete” to get out and run and reap the awesome health benefits. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it scratches the surface of how running can positively impact your life.

Lose weight

This seems to be every person’s main goal while starting to do any form of regular exercise. Running is second only to cross country skiing in terms of calories burned. The more calories you burn, the more those pesky love handles will melt off. You don’t even have to be running at top speed to reap the benefits. If you run on a regular basis you boost the “afterburn” effect, which is when you keep burning calories even after you’re done running.

Keep your brain sharp

In the short-term, running improves thinking, learning and memory function on a day-to-day basis. In the long-term, it keeps your brain going so you’re less likely to “lose it” as you get older.

Improve your mood and reduce stress

Stress causes a number of health and mood problems, and can reduce sleep quality and appetite. It is also the natural enemy of your immune system: by suppressing it, it allows opportunistic viruses to take hold. That’s why you may find you get sick during the last part of the term, or right directly after classes end. The act of running, and all exercise for that matter, improves your mood by releasing endorphins—the feel good chemical—into your brain. The more endorphins you have floating around, the happier you will feel and the better you will be at tackling stressful situations. If you’re not stressed, you’re less likely to get sick in the first place. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, running has also been shown to help with symptoms and at times help you overcome them. It can be difficult to get out of bed to go for a run, but the effects last long after you’re done running.

Boost your immune system

Even if you’ve taken great measures to reduce stress, some viruses are still going to infect you. However, running provides a second defense. It increases circulation and sends antibodies through your body more rapidly, giving your immune system the opportunity to not just detect new viruses, but also fight and get rid of them all before you feel a twinge of symptoms.

Tone your ticker

Running gives your heart an amazing workout. Just like any muscle in your body, when you work it out it gets stronger. When your legs hit the ground they squeeze blood toward your heart, which in turn forces it to pump the blood right back. The faster you run, the harder your heart works out and the stronger it gets. The stronger your heart is, the less it has to work to pump blood through your body during sedentary activities. This is why people who run on a regular basis have a slower resting heart rate: Their heart is beating more efficiently. The healthier your heart is, the less likely you will be to suffer from heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure.

Contrary to popular belief, running doesn’t wreck your joints

Running bolsters the cartilage in your knees by increasing oxygen flow and strengthening the ligaments around your joints. At the end of the day, running builds your joints up, rather than tearing them down. Running also gives your bones a boost, helping to fend off osteoporosis. It may seem counter-intuitive to break down your bones to prevent them from breaking down in the future, but the more you stress your bones now, the stronger your bones ultimately become. When you add stress to your bones, the body sends essential materials to the stressed areas to create new bone. The result is stronger and denser bone. Forget milk: Running does a body good.

It’s easy

Everyone knows how to run. You may not have perfect form yet, but you already know how to place one foot in front of the other. Good form comes with time. Although some high-tech gear will make your run more fun, all you really need is a good pair of shoes.

This is definitely a sport that works perfectly for both the super-committed and the casually-committed. You get what you put into it. If you want to geek out, there are endless articles online with awesome information. The whole internet is at your disposal. You can sign up for a fun race, like the Color Run 5k, to get you even more pumped-up about it. Have no fear that you haven’t run much before, everyone has to start somewhere. Look into some of the training plans that are listed at the bottom, they go from absolute beginner to elite marathoner. Lace up your sneakers and start having fun!

Couch To 5k (the ultimate beginner’s training plan),

Hal Higdon,

“Runner’s World Magazine,” (click on training plans on the left).

Jeff Galloway,