Can Running Make You Happier With Life?

(Last Updated On: September 14, 2017)


Learn About the Emotional Benefits of Running

Does Running Make Us Happier With Life?

If you are not currently following an exercise program,running may be your solution to boost a negative mood,gain of focus at work,and relieve general anxiety. Scientific research supports the notion that running – quite simply put – makes us happy! Let us share one story of a happy runner who claims that her new running hobby changed her life…

A Happy Runner Named Stacey

Stacey of Idaho Falls felt that she needed a change in her life. She was unhappy with the reflection in the mirror and concerned for her future self. “I was starting down a path to obesity unless I made some changes in how I ate and my level of physical activity,” she shared. When a friend suggested she started to run, Stacey decided to give it a try.

At first, it was a struggle. “I was amazingly out of shape and even running half a mile was tough.” Over time, she learned to budget her time for runs, find the correct motivation (great food at the end of the run), and surround herself with encouraging people.

Does Running Make Us Happier With Life - Medals

Stacey displaying medals from her first ‘hat trick’ – a 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon all in the same weekend in October 2013.

A new lifelong runner was born!

Today, Stacey regularly competes in various types of races in locations across the country. “I try to sign up for at least one half marathon a year, plus 5Ks and 10Ks that either fit into my plan are for a good cause,” she explained.

Stacey especially enjoys running fun races like one that took her up the slope of a volcano, a Pi Day Pi K, and even a February Cupid Underwear run to benefit pediatric cancer (in frigid Pittsburgh no less!) She likes races where she can be with great people, see fun sights, and drink a good beer at the end.

Her fitness routine involves training six days of the week including: 4-5 miles on Monday, a 1-3 mile run to the gym for weight training on Tuesday, a speed workout of 3-5 miles on Wednesday, another run to the gym on Thursday, a longer run of 6-12 miles on Friday, and hiking 6-12 miles over the weekend.

She is much happier with life.

What Do the Scientists Say on the Matter?

So, the question remains – can running make you happier with life?  The happiness that results from a consistent exercise plan like running is not just in Stacey’s head – it’s supported by science.

Multiple scientific studies support the notion that running makes people happier. Pain Journal published a double blind study of twelve long distance runners that concluded that long-distance running produces hypoalgesia (a decrease in pain sensitivity) and causes mood elevation in men.

Another report explained that, “The majority (90%) of studies support both the antidepressive properties of exercise and the effect of exercise in combating anxiety.” It continued, “In addition, the studies reviewed generally substantiate the claim that improved mood is associated with exercise.”

An article in Behavioral Therapy1 explained how one researcher used aerobic exercise like running to serve as a treatment for depression in women. There was a “significant decrease in levels of measured depression” in the subjects. Another article in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology2 also tested 43 college women and showed “significantly more improvement in depression scores” during their study.

Running Was “A Total Life Changer”

Stacey has seen a drastic improvement in her functioning at work and in home life. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that running was a total life changer for me,” Stacey exclaimed. At work, she is better able to tolerate frustrating situations and has a more positive attitude. “When I run in the morning, I am better able to focus and am more alert.”

In her personal life, Stacey also credits running for an improved mood, confidence, and the ability to deal with difficult situations. “If I have something bothering me, a run helps me to think about solutions and to formulate how I want to address my issues,” she said. “I am much more satisfied with my life. If I’ve gone for a run, it doesn’t matter what else I’ve done during the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something and I’m proud of myself.”

Does Running Make Us Happier With Life

Stacey is loving life now that she’s become a runner. This is a photo of her at Upper Palisades Lake during one of her weekend hikes.

There are physical changes as well. “I definitely have more energy, especially after my long runs.” She enjoys an extended runner’s high that motivates her to accomplish chores around the house, bake, or run errands. When looking in the mirror, she’s noticed that weight has redistributed on her body and fat has transformed into muscle. “I’ve also supplemented my running with weight lifting to help keep me injury free, which helped with the body transformations. I feel more confident because I’m more muscular and just feel more sexy in my own skin.”

How to Begin Your Runner’s Journey

If you are just starting off on your new life journey as a runner, you may notice a change in your mood after just one workout. A study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research3 found that “there is strong support for the existence of acute mood benefits derived from a single bout of exercise.”

Obviously, one run isn’t going to fix you for life, so learn how to make it a healthy ongoing habit. “Just remember that we all started off he same way,” Stacey shared. “I could barely jog a quarter mile without feeling like I was going to die. But if you really want it and keep at it, you can run marathons!”

She also cautioned, “Don’t compare your running journey to anyone else’s. It’s just like life. You never know what someone is going through or how hard they had to work to get where they are. Enjoy your own runs and take joy in the fact that you can.”

One danger is pushing yourself too far too fast and getting injured. Take your time and listen to your body. If you do get injured, take the time to fully heal. “There are many more runs to take, and you want to be healthy enough to do so.”

Finally, Stacey suggests that you not shy away from treadmills especially when the weather is foul. “When I do run on one, I definitely like a fan as I sweat like a man,” she chuckled. “I also like treadmills with a lap tracker so I can easily do intervals.”

It is important to select the right type of treadmill for your body and budget, so it is always a good idea to look at reviews for the best treadmills before you make your purchase.

Why You Should Run to be Happy

Stacey is only a few years into a lifelong journey as a runner. So far, her proudest moment was finishing the Pittsburgh Marathon after overcoming a severe broken wrist that interrupted her training. She shared the story, “I had a goal of 4:30, I finished in 4:35 with a huge smile on my face, and I have never been prouder. Nor have I ever eaten so much food in one day when I was done!”

We’ll let Stacey finalize why you should run-

“Running is such an easy way to reap physical rewards. You can see how running improves you cardio for things like walking up stairs, running after kids, or even walking the dog. It’s also wonderful to look in the mirror and see muscles take form, your body slim down, and how your clothes start to fit differently. This feeds directly into your mental well being. Competing your first race, running a little further than the last time, running a new PR, all give you confidence and help you to understand that you are amazing and can do more than you thought possible. And feeling healthy and being healthy just make all aspects of your life that much better. And with a positive attitude gained by confidence, you’ll attract positive people and positive experiences, which help make a positive life!”

Now go for a run and be happy!

Do you want to learn more about long distance running?  Check out our guide to Ultra-Marathons.


Questions –

  • What were some of your challenges when you started running and how did you overcome them?
  • How has running had a positive effect on your mood and life outlook?



  1. DOYNE EJ, CHAMBLESS DL, BEUTLER LE. Aerobic exercise as a treatment for depression in women. Behav Ther 1983; 14: 434-440.
  2. MCCANN IL, HOLMES DS. Influence of aerobic exercise on depression. J Person Soc Psychol 1984; 46: 1142-1147.
  3. YEUNG, R. P. The Acute Effects of Exercise on Mood State. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 123-141, 1996