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The verdict on how to maintain optimum health is always changing, and while some experts tell us running is damaging for our joints, others tell us it’s the golden ticket to a healthy and happy life. We’ve done some digging into the perks and pitfalls, and it looks like overall, incorporating running into your weekly routine is a healthy option for body and soul. While excessive running can lead to chronic fatigue , increased cortisol levels  and injuries such as joint damage, inflammation, fractures and muscular depreciation , the evidence suggests that moderate running has myriad positive effects on our physical and mental wellbeing.
As with all aerobic exercise, running regularly results in increased cardiovascular health, which – in short – means improved blood pressure and lower risk of heart attacks . While excessive running can increase the risk of cardiac arrest, the cases of sudden cardiac arrest for runners have occurred in at risk groups, often in people running over 20 miles per week, without taking the rest days necessary to aid recovery . Overall, research suggests that moderate running improves heart health by strengthening the heart muscle, reducing cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure.
While all aerobic exercise can help with weight loss by burning calories and improving muscle density , running has been found to be one of the most efficient and accessible exercise options for shedding body fat and losing weight . Since running uses more muscles groups than many other forms of exercise, it is uniquely efficient at burning calories  and studies have found that running can burn 33-35 more calories per mile than walking . Studies have also found that high intensity running, (as opposed to more low-intensity forms of exercise) can triggers a heightened metabolic rate for 48 hours following,  which means runners continue to burn calories once the run itself has come to an end. As well as increasing metabolic rate, running has also been found to result in a suppressed appetite  by reducing the levels of ghrelin – the hormone associated with hunger – in the body.
Another benefit of running is the positive impact it has on the mind. “The runners high” is more than just a theory: running has been found to trigger the release of endorphins and alter the brain’s endocannabinoid system in the same way that marijuana does . Additionally, running has been found to cause leptin (a hormone associated with satiety) levels to fall, triggering a sense of primally rewarding motivation . As well as the physiological changes, there are the psychological effects that committing to a healthy activity such as running has on our happiness levels. A study by Glasgow Caledonian University questioned more than 8,000 runners, and found that running results in higher reported levels of happiness, self-confidence and general wellbeing  .
As well as making us happier, running has been found to improve efficacy in the workplace and general levels of productivity . By exercising before work, we’re likely to experience higher self-esteem and boosted energy levels , both of which are likely to improve efficacy in the workplace. Running has also been found to help reduce stress and regulate cortisol levels, which can allow for more clear-headed, effective thinking .
And finally, as well as helping you work with more focus, running can also help you think more creatively: so you can execute ideas efficiently with more creative flair. Aerobic exercise such as running has been found to stimulate Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), encouraging the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus . Running also triggers a release of dopamine, a hormone linked to happiness and creativity . And it’s not just the chemical effects: the repetitive motion of running can induce a meditative state which allows us to process our thoughts and come up with divergent solutions .