10 Reasons Running Is Better Than Going to the Gym

Say what you will about runners, but they’re certainly a dedicated bunch. Neither extreme heat nor frigid cold can keep them from their favorite form of exercise. And it’s not unlikely to see them out well before the sun rises or long after it sets. While most folks dread the thought of hitting the gym, these pavement pounders actually look forward to getting their hearts pumping.

Though it’s easy to dismiss runners as insane, they may actually be on to something. We’ve highlighted 10 reasons why running can actually be better than heading to the gym. Best of all, you don’t need any user manual or intro class to start. Just lace up your shoes, and head out the door.

1. You can exercise wherever, whenever

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Unless you’re a member at a 24-hour gym, you’re limited to certain hours. While that may work out most of the time, there are always going to be days when you have to sneak in a workout incredibly early in the morning or late at night. Even gyms that are always open tend to have limited hours on holidays, which means you don’t really have an opportunity to work off your Thanksgiving meal. You’ll also run into issues when you travel, because workout facilities aren’t a given at hotels.

If you go for a run, you can choose your hours as well as your location. When out of town, going for a run is one of the greatest ways to get familiar with the area. You can find routes other runners have logged on sites like MapMyRun to get a good idea of how to plan your workout. If you do find yourself heading out in the wee hours of the morning or late at night, make sure you’re wearing clothes that are easy to spot and staying away from secluded areas. Check out Active.com for more tips on staying safe when it’s dark.

2. Being outside is better for your body and your brain

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Some gym-goers cite fear of injury as one of the predominant reasons they stick to the treadmill, so they might be surprised to find out they could actually be causing more harm by staying indoors. Dr. Irene Davis, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School spoke to Time about how the repetitive nature of running can be hard on the body. Running outside is actually less likely to lead to injury than running on a treadmill because runners have to adjust their form to hop over curbs or dodge other obstacles, which shifts the load to different muscles.

Though exercise of any type is a great way to give your mood a boost, the effect is even greater if you’re outside. A 2012 study from Glasgow University found those who exercised in the great outdoors reduced their risk of suffering from mental health issues by half. Now that’s something to smile about.

3. No smelly gym bag

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It doesn’t matter how hard you try, your gym gear is always going to stink. Though your clothes are drenched with sweat after a workout, you don’t really have any chance to wash or air them out when you’re on your way to the office. Instead, those garments get wadded into a ball and sealed in your duffel for several hours, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Things are even worse if you wear moisture-wicking fabrics. A study in Applied Environmental Microbiology found these performance clothes are more susceptible to housing a type of stench-causing bacteria. If you go for a run, you can get out of your clothes, let them dry, and even pre-treat them with a vinegar or baking soda solution to help eliminate odors.

4. Running helps you get lean

Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

People are always trying to find the new best way to burn calories. New isn’t always better, though. A glance through this chart of different exercises from Harvard Medical School shows running is about as effective as it gets. According to the table, a 185-pound person can shred a whopping 555 calories in just 30 minutes if they’re able to maintain a pace of 8 minutes per mile. And according to Men’s Fitness, running can easily burn twice the number of calories as lifting weights for the same amount of time.

5. You’ll cut down on your commute

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Whether you travel by car, bus, or train, commuting takes a fair amount of time. If you don’t happen to have a gym at your office, you spend even more time on the road just to squeeze in some exercise. When you start your workout from your front door, you’ll have already traveled a significant distance in the amount of time it would take you just to reach the gym’s entrance. With an extra 30 minutes added to the morning, you could actually get a decent night’s sleep. That could make a big difference for your health. In fact, a study published earlier this year from Weill Cornell Medical College found skimping on 30 minutes of sleep per day leads to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

6. You won’t get bored

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When your workout involves cardio equipment, it also involves staring at the same spot the whole time. That’s definitely not good for motivation, and you may find it difficult to push yourself. Having a TV on isn’t much better. It could distract you too much, which may even lead to an injury. Your options for different scenery greatly increase when you start running. Maybe it’s a wooded trail one day and a residential neighborhood the next. As with working out indoors, there’s still the potential for distraction if you use headphones. Always make sure to keep the volume low so you can hear approaching vehicles and other hazards.

7. Running won’t cost you a fortune

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

According to Statistic Brain, the average cost of a gym membership is $58 per month. Over the course of a year, that adds up to almost $700. We’re pretty sure most people have a few ideas about what they could do with that additional cash. Without the regular fees, all you need to start a running regimen is a decent pair of shoes, some workout clothes, and maybe a watch. That’s about as low budget as you can get for outdoor workouts when you consider the equipment and upkeep associated with cycling, rock climbing, and water sports.

8. It’s a chance to socialize

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Though it’s an individual activity, running can be a great way to spend a little bit of time with your friends or even meet some new ones. Instead of having to reserve a tennis court, you and your pals can just step out the door. None of your buddies like to pound the pavement? It’s almost impossible to find a community that doesn’t have at least one running club these days. Road Runners Club of America is a good place to start, but don’t forget to ask your local running stores as well. Many of them host weekly group workouts, sometimes even interval sessions.

9. Opportunities for competition are endless

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Since races don’t require an ice arena or much of anything as far as amenities, they pop up all over the country practically year round. That’s great news for guys who have a competitive side. It also makes it a lot easier to track your fitness progress. As soon as you run your first race, you already have a goal to beat for the next one. You might even win a prize or two.

10. We’re designed to be runners

male runner

Source: iStock

You may remember when the barefoot and minimalist shoe trend took off a number of years ago. There’s actually a fair bit of science behind it, and not all about feet. The movement caught on after the release of Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, in which he delves into the world of a tribe in Mexico whose people run incredible distances armed with nothing more than flimsy footwear. Shortly after the book became a sensation, The New York Times spoke to McDougall as well as a number of other experts. Daniel E. Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, and Dennis M. Bramble, a biologist at the University of Utah, discussed the role evolution has played in our physical abilities. The scientists explained our ability to sweat rather than pant to cool off enables us to sustain our efforts far longer than our four-legged friends. Maybe marathoners aren’t so crazy after all.

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