Top 10 health benefits of running: Weight loss, energy and more

Nearly 25 million Americans have participated in a form of running over the last two decades. No two runners run for the same reasons, but all runners do reap the same health benefits.

Before you head out to pound the pavement, you should talk to your doctor, however, to make sure you are healthy enough to start running.

1. Weight Loss

Running burns a significant amount of calories making it an excellent form of exercise to help you lose weight. Be aware though because it is a high-impact exercise and if you are more than just a few pounds overweight, running may cause your leg and hip joints to ache. You can still run, but will have to start slow.

2. Cardiovascular Health

Your cardiovascular health increases when you run regularly. You will increase the elasticity of your arteries and lower your blood pressure. Both of these will contribute to lowering your risk of having a heart attack.

3. Bone Density

You will improve your bone density, specifically in your back, hips and legs, with running. Along with strong bones, you will also strengthen your muscles. Your muscles will not become bulky, but will be stronger. You also reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

4. Appetite

You will actually eat more when you run regularly because you will be burning more calories. You will most often also be hungrier and have a better, healthier appetite. Regular exercise is also good for digestion.

5. Sleep

Running often helps you sleep better because being in good health promotes good sleep. You should also make sure to get adequate sleep before going on a good run. Not getting enough rest could result in over-training.

6. Diabetes

If you run just five days a week for 30 minutes each time, your risk of Type 2 diabetes is reduced. You should also keep an eye on your sugar and carbohydrate intake.

7. Cancer

Running five days a week for at least 30 minutes each time may help to reduce your risk of different types of cancer. These types of cancers include uterine, breast and bowel cancer.

8. Depression

Running also has positive effects on your mental health. It helps increase your physical self-perception and helps you feel better about yourself which can help in relieving depression and bettering your mood.

9. Breathing

Running will help to strengthen your lungs. If you normally find yourself out of breath after a few flights of stairs, you will notice that as you run more, you will be able to take more flights without getting out of breath because your lungs are becoming stronger.

10. Energy

If you are often tired, running may help. Running can help to boost your energy levels. Of course, it makes you healthier and this helps, but running itself gets your blood pumping and this wakes you up.

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R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen began her career in health care in 2002, when she began nursing school. She is now a full-time medical writer with expertise in a variety of health fields, specifically trauma, public health, cancer, infectious disease, women's health, and research. She combines her education, experience, and passion for health and medicine to influence her writing.

Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.

Updated Wednesday, May 4, 2011