9 running benefits that'll motivate you even when it's chilly outside

Losing your January motivation - and fast? Let these running health perks help.

Running benefits: Group of women jogging
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Losing your January motivation - and fast? Let these running health perks help.

Exercise motivation isn't the easiest to come by - especially in the winter months when it's cold outside and gets dark at 4pm. Enter stage right, your complete guide to the many running benefits - because trust us when we say, it's a sure-fire form of both physical and mental health help.

Whether you're a beginner or pro, running could help you - read our guides to running tips for beginners and training tips for a marathon, here - in more ways than one. But motivating yourself to get up and out early morning or after a long day at work? Not so easy.

"As temperatures plummet in the winter months, so can people’s desire to run," shares Ben Parker, co-founder and head coach at RunBuddy. Why so? A few factors - reduced amount of natural sunlight, the days being shorter, and adverse weather conditions. "This can make running less appealing or outright impossible," he shares.

And I couldn't agree more - as a health editor who runs for fun, I know first hand what running benefits look - and feel - like. Aside from it keeping me fit and healthy, it boosts my mental health, keeps me in routine, and has helped me to forge life-long friendships.

Read our guide to how to exercise in winter, while you're here, and keep scrolling for our expert-led guide to the many running benefits.

Running benefits: 9 to boost motivation and more

1. It improves your mental health

Among the long list of benefits running can have on your mental health, it can help reduce feelings and symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and chronic stress, explains Parker.

"Running outside, in particular, can help with reducing the feelings of isolation and loneliness, which is particularly important during the winter months when many struggle with seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), also known as winter depression," he shares.

I couldn't agree more - even when you really don't fancy it, as little as a ten-minute plod around the park always helps.

2. It can provide companionship

As the cliché goes, sometimes the real treasure is the friends made along the way.

"The running community is packed full of supportive, like-minded individuals who all share a common goal: to enjoy running," explains Parker. And he's not wrong - whether it’s a way to keep in touch with old friends or a chance to meet new people, running can provide great companionship, and I've met some of my best friends through the sport.

Bored of running on your own? Try a run club: our favourites in London include Rep Runners, Your Friendly Run Club, and Run Dem Crew.

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3. It keeps your heart healthy

Did you know? Running can help keep your heart healthy, whether it’s by reducing the risk of heart and circulatory diseases or lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"Research has found that running on a regular basis can decrease the risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease by up to 30 per cent," shares the head coach.

4. It boosts your aerobic fitness

And, as above, if running keeps your heart health, it's almost certainly going to boost your aerobic fitness and cardiovascular capacity, too.

Aerobic fitness is simply workotus that need high amounts of oxygen, like running or HIIT. Running can improve your aerobic capacity as it helps enable your muscles to use the oxygen in an effective way when the oxygen does reach them. Neat.

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5. It supports stronger bones

Fun fact: as running is a weight-bearing exercise, it can increase the strength of your bones, too.

"In fact, bones found within the legs, pelvis, and spine are found to be stronger in runners than in non-active people," shares Parker.

This doesn’t, however, always mean runners have increased bone density. Do note here that it’s important to keep your body fuelled with the right number of calories to preserve bone density (read what to eat after a workout, here) and also, take up strength training for running if you're pounding the pavements regularly to prevent injury.

6. It keeps you in routine

Wondering how to hit your goals for 2022? FYI, research has shown that the simple act of goal setting in itself can actually be a really effective way of keeping yourself in a healthy morning routine.

Look at it this way: if you sign up for a 5km at the end of the month, you'll be more motivated to get up and get the training done knowing the event is coming up. Rope a friend in to make it extra enjoyable, and don't miss our guide to adequate workout recovery for post-run, too.

7. It increases productivity

Another benefit of running? Lacing up has been shown to increase both happiness and efficiency in the workplace. "Run more, perform better at work, get paid more - assuming you land the promotions, of course," expains Parker.

We know just how hard it is to feel motivated at times - especially during the winter months when the temperature drops and there’s less sunlight - but the benefits really do speak for themselves. Plus, it's free...

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8. It's accessible

Which leads us on nicely to our next point: one huge benefit of running is that it's hugely accessible. Anyone can be a runner, whether you're 9 or 90, fit or unfit, and it's totally free.

All you need is a get-up-and-go attitude, a good pair of running trainers, a supportive sports bra and you're off.

9. It helps with weight management 

Finally, if you are looking to lose weight, running can be a great exercise to help you on your way. Don't try diet fads, but do read our weight loss tips from one of London's best PT's if you are looking to make positive change.

"While it’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different and two people running the same distance in the same amount of time isn’t guaranteed to produce the same weight-related results, running as a regular exercise can still be a part of anyone’s fitness journey," shares Parker. "It's a fun, effective, and enjoyable way to lose or maintain weight, depending on what your personal fitness goals are."

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.