Running is one of the best ways to stay in shape, and it’s a great way to achieve long-term cardiovascular health. Though this activity is excellent for your body, it improves your well-being in other ways, too. Discover six of the physical and mental benefits associated with a healthy running routine.

A Healthier Heart

Running strengthens your heart health and helps arteries retain their elasticity, thereby reducing your risk of suffering a heart attack and your chance of developing heart disease. Running also helps your heart not have to work as hard, since cardiovascular exercise decreases your resting heart rate. Even if you can only run for about 10 minutes at a slow pace, doing so regularly can greatly improve your heart health.

Increased Lung Capacity

Consistent running can also improve your lung health and function. While running, your body experiences an increased demand for oxygen to your muscles, which puts a strain on your lungs. When not enough oxygen can get to your muscles, you’ll experience fatigue when you’ve reached your limit. Your lungs strengthen through routine training, which results in better ventilation, respiration, and oxygen capacity.

A Sense of Accomplishment

One of the biggest benefits of running is the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you finish. You can add short runs to your exercise regimen to help you stay motivated and stick to your exercise plan. Your brain also releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals while running, so as you get in shape and continue to go running, you’ll start to experience what’s known as a “runner’s high.”

Mental Clarity

Have you noticed that running helps clear your mind? When you experience a runner’s high for the first time, you’ll discover that running has the incredible ability to drown out distractions while you focus on nothing in particular. Giving your mind a rest allows it to make connections that it can’t make if you’re stressed or overworked. This increased mental clarity can help with problem-solving and getting your creative juices flowing.

Less Stress

Running and other types of exercise can help improve your mood and appetite. However, these improvements largely come from lowered stress levels, which result from exercise prompting increased serotonin production. Running also helps you put your energy to good use, leaving you better able to rest at night and feeling more fulfilled and alert throughout the day.

A Longer, Happier Life

All of these benefits add up to give you a longer and happier life. In addition to cardiovascular health, running can help you avoid problems such as colon cancer and breast cancer. The reduced stress and improved clarity that running provides can pour over into other areas of your life as well, encouraging a healthier sleep cycle, an enhanced ability to concentrate at work, and increased problem-solving skills.

Exercise is a wonderful thing, and it does so much more than help you achieve the appearance you desire. The next time you lace up for a run, remember that you’re benefiting your body, mind, and soul.