With summer well underway, there's no better time to start running. It's cheap (all you need is a decent pair of trainers), it's easy to start, and you can do it either on your own or in company.
But why bother? Here are 10 good reasons why you should strap on your running shoes.
1. It's good for your heart
Running regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease. A study by Stanford University in California looking at runners' hearts over 20 years found they were less at risk of heart disease than their non-running peers.
2. It'll reduce your blood pressure
Running will help lower your blood pressure. When you do cardio exercise, your heart becomes larger and stronger. This means it doesn't have to work so hard to pump blood around your body, which reduces the force on your arteries, lowering your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it's a good idea to build up your running gradually.
3. It could reduce your risk of cancer
Cardiovascular exercise like running is thought to decrease your risk of developing certain cancers. According to Cancer Research UK, it can increase the speed at which food moves through your bowels, thus diminishing the risk of bowel cancer, and reduces the amount of insulin in your blood, which may lower your cancer risk.
4. It's good for your bones
One of the best ways to keep your bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis is to do weight-bearing exercise (exercise in which you support your own body weight). Running is a classic example of weight-bearing exercise.
5. It'll help your mood
Research suggests that regular cardio exercise like running can be more effective in treating mild to moderate depression than taking antidepressants.
6. It could stave off dementia
Studies show that regular cardiovascular exercise can improve memory and reduce the risk of dementia by about 30%. It's thought to increase the size of the brain's hippocampus, the area involved in memory).
7. It can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes
According to the World Health Organization, you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 30% by doing regular exercise like running. It can also help manage diabetes if you already have it.
8. It builds muscle
Running gives your leg and butt muscles a great workout (and can work your core and upper body, too). Building muscle not only makes you look good, it helps you burn off more calories (even when you're at rest), helping you manage your weight.
9. It lowers your cholesterol
Aerobic exercise such as running has been shown to be good for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
10. It'll help you sleep
Sleep disorders are on the rise, but running can improve sleep quality. In one study, older adults doing aerobic exercise (like running) three times a week slept 45 minutes longer every night than their sedentary counterparts.
Patricia Carswell is a freelance journalist and award-winning blogger specialising in health and fitness. She has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, Times Online, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, Metro and a wide variety of national magazines and websites. She blogs at www.sportyoverforty.com and www.girlontheriver.com and has a particular interest in fitness for the over-40s.