12 Indisputable Reasons You Should Start Running Right Now

by Leigh Weingus

If running is pretty much your least favorite activity on the planet, we get it.

Running is hard. And between the shin splints and all that huffing and puffing, it can be tempting to drop the idea completely when there are so many other workout options out there.

Hear us out, though, because running is really good for you, both physically and mentally.

Before you throw in the towel and give up on running forever, consider these 12 amazing mental and physical benefits of running.

Running busts stress.

Rough day at the office? Running can help you out with that one.

A long run will get the endorphins (the happy chemical our brains produce) going big time, banishing all those angry and sad thoughts and bringing on the famous runner's high.

Plus, the rhythmic nature of running can be extremely calming. It's just you and the pavement.

You'll torch calories.

There's a reason running is so hard: It burns tons of calories.

The average person burns 100 calories per mile they run. So if you're running a 9-minute mile, you'll burn about 500 calories in 45 minutes.

If you're trying to lose weight, running is probably the best way to go cardio-wise.

Running can help you make friends.

Friends make you happy, and running is a surprisingly easy was to make them.

There are tons of running clubs and groups out there, and that runner's high will put you in serious friend-making mode.

Self-conscious about being a slow runner? Trust us, you're not alone. There will always be people at your skill level as long as your group isn't too competitive.

It may help you get that six pack you've always dreamed about.

If all those crunches and planks aren't doing it, try taking up running.

Here's the thing: You can't see abs if they're hiding under fat, and running can be key in losing the stubborn few pounds hanging around your belly.

Although running doesn't target your abs directly, if you activate your core while running (which you absolutely should -- it takes the strain off other muscles!) it will help strengthen it and aid in your six pack ab efforts.

You'll sleep better.

Having a hard time getting your seven to eight hours of sleep in? It's going to be a little harder to lie awake with your thoughts for hours on end if you're running regularly.

One study, published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, found getting 150 minutes of exercise every week helps people sleep significantly better.

Three 50-minute runs throughout the week doesn't sound too bad if it'll cure your insomnia, right?

Running improves your immune system.

Worried about getting sick this holiday season? Running could be key to warding off any colds coming your way.

In fact, research shows light to moderate running for up to an hour can help strengthen your immune system.

Trust us, you'll be happy you ran a few times a week when your friends are in bed with the sniffles for an entire month.

You'll feel more confident.

There's no doubt about it: Running makes us look better with all its calorie-burning and muscle-building powers.

Add that to how much better running makes us feel, and you've got a huge self-esteem boost.

Plus, if you set a goal -- like running a 10k race, for example -- and you achieve it, it will fill you with a sense of accomplishment and boost your confidence even more.

It might make you smarter.

Feeling a little dim? Run it out.

There's some evidence that exercise stimulates brain cell growth and may prevent our brains from shrinking as we age, meaning you'll be a sharp old lady or gentleman.

Plus, regular exercise may also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. How awesome is that?

Running is amazing for your heart.

Running regularly helps reduce stress hormones in the body, lowers our resting heart rate, increases our oxygen capacity and improves circulation.

In other words, running regularly is one of the best things you can do for the old ticker.

You don't have to run a marathon, just try to run a few times a week. Your heart will thank you.

All that time outside will boost your mood.

Treadmills are great and all, but research shows taking your workout outside is full of mental health benefits like increased well-being, decreased risk of depression and lower stress levels.

Get outside, people. Just don't forget to wear sunscreen!

You'll have more energy.

Sure, running requires energy. And when you first get started, running may leave you a little exhausted.

But running regularly increases blood flow and oxygen in the body, which boost energy levels.

Plus, how can you not have energy when you're feeling great about your body and in a good mood all the time?

Time to lace up those sneakers and hit the pavement.