8 Reasons Why Running to Work Will Improve Your Happiness (and Health)

Whether you’re new to running, or an old hand, you’ll know it works best when it fits in with your lifestyle – which is why using those precious commute hours is a great way of fitting in a workout around your schedule.

This summer, Red Bull is calling on you to run, cycle or even swim to work as part of its Million Mile Commute. A great excuse to get fit, and an even better excuse to set a new PB. 

According to Strava’s 2017 report, Brits went for 24.7 million runs last year, covering 192 million km. But we think you could do better. And athletes who set a goal for their fitness – say running to work three days a week – are 92% more likely to stick to their fitness goals 10 months later.

Best of all, you’ll not only boost your cardio capabilities but boost your brain power too, which may come in handy if you have a difficult day ahead. Here, then, with input from neuroscientist Ben Martynoga, are the benefits of lacing up and pounding pavements.

1. Running Is Addictive

“Running can be a potent way to encourage the body’s natural reward systems,” Ben explains. “The body makes its own ‘drugs’ in the form of endorphins and endocannabinoids. While not addictive, endorphins act on the same targets in the brain as opiates, while endocannabinoids stimulate the same receptors as cannabis. Again – there’s no physical addiction, but this might account for the elusive runners’ high!”

2. You’ll Start Your Day With A Smile

“The satisfaction of completing a run – whether long or short – is hard to beat,” Ben explains. Due to the release of the chemicals mentioned above, you’re likely to carry this glow into your day. And even if you’ve had a bit of a nightmare commute, you’ll still feel good. “We tend to remember the beginning and end of an experience, rather than the middle, so the sense of achievement you feel when you arrive at the office will stick with you long after your legs have stopped aching.”

3. You’ll Outpace Stress

“A lunch time run is great if you can’t fit one in first thing or on the way home,” says Ben. “Whenever you run, it’ll help. If you’re experiencing stress at work, this can have an unpleasant effect on the body. The hypothalamus, at the base of your brain, recognises stress and encourages the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. This then makes your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing speed up, causing those familiar feelings of agitation and anxiety. Getting out for a run is a good way to work through this, and re-set your mind.”

4. You’ll Boost Brain Power

“There’s an interesting study from the University of Cambridge looking at combining aerobic exercise (like running) with mental tasks (in this case, a memory test). The study found that those who did a mental workout before a physical one didn’t perform as well physically. The implication is that, to achieve peak performance, it will pay to work on training your mind and your body. Studies have also shown that running can improve long-term memory and ‘executive function’, which includes your ability to focus, solve problems and regulate your emotions, even without that 3pm biscuit.

5. You’ll Re-Set Your Head

“The physical benefits of running are well documented,” Ben says, “but we’re only just beginning to understand its meditative components. Running can help you forget stress, by focusing on the moment. Think about your cadence, your footfall, your breathing, the sights, sounds and smells of the city around you. Immerse yourself in your present reality and you’ll find it very difficult to worry about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow. Plus, it’s almost impossible to check your emails while you run.”

6. You’ll Add Years To Your Life

Lower stress equals lower blood pressure, and a better chance at living a longer, happier and healthier life. And according to a study review published in the Journal of Nutrition, regular running is even associated with a lower risk of developing certain cancers. Meanwhile, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that even 10-minutes’ worth of running per day leads to a dramatically reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Even when your boss dumps a last minute assignment on your desk at 4.45pm…

7. You’ll Be Happier

Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found that regular running does indeed make you a happier individual. The reason is the purging of a hormone called kynurenine, which builds up in our bodies during times of stress. Not only that, but, bizarrely, running will also help you hear better. According to research conducted by Bellarmine University, Kentucky, running improves blood-flow to your ears, helping you to better appreciate your bosses’ latest musical obsession… And, as music is proven to boost your mood, you’ll be even happier, naturally.

8. It’s Your Natural State

“If you think about how we evolved from hunter-gatherers, it’s makes intuitive sense that running is something we were born to do,” says Ben. “Studies have shown that sitting around all day is bad for everything from posture to cardiovascular health to mental well being.” Running not only gets the heart pumping, but it gets the brain working too, and improves your ability to deal with your environment. Running to and from work is a great way to make sure you get moving each day.

Why don't you join the run commute community with Red Bull's million mile commute?