What Happens to Your Body When You Run Every Day?

The Benefits and Risks of Daily Running

Two runners on a track

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

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Running is an extremely popular form of exercise and for good reason. Not only is it one of the most accessible forms of exercise, but running also requires minimal equipment and is relatively inexpensive.

Running also is convenient and affords countless benefits for both your physical and mental health. You can improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, increase bone density, boost confidence, and improve mood.

With all of these benefits and more, it seems logical that you would want to run every day to reap the benefits the sport offers. But is that what is best for you? Below, we break down the science behind what happens to your body when you run every day so you can decide what's best for you.

two runners on a path

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

Benefits of Running Every Day

Running is truly a full body workout and provides benefits from head to toe. Here are some of benefits you may experience running consistently—even every day.

Physical and Mental Benefits of Running Daily

  • Great for cardiovascular health
  • Builds muscle and strength
  • May improve running performance
  • May positively affect bone density
  • Helps with weight maintenance
  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Boosts your mood, confidence, and self-esteem

Physical Benefits

Running is one of the best and most accessible aerobic exercises you can do for your heart health. As you run, your heart rate increases, working to pump more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your hard working muscles. Over time, your heart and lungs become stronger, allowing your heart to pump more blood with each beat.

As your cardiovascular health improves, you may find yourself running faster and more efficiently, maybe even feeling less breathless than you did when you started. In fact, it is well established that running increases cardiovascular health and improves mortality rates.

Running also contributes to improved cardio-metabolic factors, including lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Studies show that running decreases blood pressure and increases HDL cholesterol—or the "good" cholesterol—contributing to an overall decrease in chronic disease.

Running is also an excellent muscle-building workout using many different groups of muscles—from your core to your upper and lower body. With enough calories and protein to support your level of activity, running can help build muscle and increase strength and endurance. In fact, certain muscles in your core and hips are stabilizers and increasing strength in those muscles helps to decrease the risk of injury and improve running performance.

If weight management is your goal, running can be a helpful addition to your lifestyle. While weight loss is an involved process, it is known that increased energy expenditure is certainly one determinant. Because running is an efficient way to burn calories, it may result in weight loss or maintenance when combined with decreased calorie intake.

Even your bones are positively affected by running. This high-impact activity puts stress on your bones, which stimulates them to lay down more minerals and become stronger. Running also increases the production of the parathyroid hormone and calcitriol, which stimulate the body to make more bone cells.

Studies show that running increases the bone mineral content in young athletes. Additionally, long-distance running shows benefits on bone mineral density as you age. One study showed that bone mineral density was maintained in elderly long-distance runners.

Mental Health Benefits

Running is not only good for your physical health, but it also boasts many benefits for your mental health as well. Getting outside to pound the pavement is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. One study showed that antidepressant medication or running therapy are both effective treatments for many with depression and anxiety disorders.

Running can also boost your mood, confidence, and self-esteem. What's more, the runner's high that many people experience, is the brain releasing beta-endorphins, which are thought to be a key mediator in hippocampal neurogenesis. This produces that feel-good sensation post-run and contributes to brain health overall, improving memory and cognitive functioning.

Running also is an extremely goal-oriented sport and achieving a goal, doing something new, or something we didn't think was possible feels good. This helps give you a sense of self-confidence, pride, and productivity.

runner running on a road

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

Risks of Running Everyday

Running every day doesn't come without its risks. The sport is high-impact and tough on your body and just like any exercise, too much of it can be a bad thing. Here are some of the risks associated with running everyday.

Physical and Mental Risks of Running Daily

  • Increased risk of injury
  • Increased soreness, fatigue, and joint pain
  • Potential mental burnout and fatigue
  • Risk of decreased motivation
  • Risk of obsessive tendencies or exercise addiction
  • Potential risk of negative impacts on body image and self-esteem, as well as social isolation if running alone

Physical Risks

Many runners experience overuse injuries, which can be as a result of too many miles per week or ramping up in mileage too quickly. Common overuse injuries include shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis.

New runners, or runners jumping back into the field after a hiatus can do too much too soon, so it is always wise to start with a less is more approach and slowly build up mileage.

Additionally, running can definitely result in some next-day muscle soreness and fatigue. While running on sore muscles is OK when it doesn't affect your movement or form, but if your muscle soreness is causing you to compensate or change your natural running form, that can result in an injury.

Remember, rest is essential for muscle repair and growth. When muscles rest, fibroblasts have time to repair the microscopic tears in muscle tissue, resulting in stronger muscles.

Plus, over time all that pounding on your body may result in some joint pain. Even though running isn't inherently bad for your joints—especially since they adapt to the load you are putting on them and become stronger, but running frequently can result in knee, hip, ankle, or foot pain as a result of muscle imbalances, flaws in form, or genetics. Mixing up the surface you run on as well as the types of exercise you do can help to decrease pain and inflammation in your joints and keep you running longer.

Mental Risks

As good as running is for your mental health, too much running can contribute to some negative effects as well. Running every day—especially following a rigid training plan or focusing on a specific goal—can result in mental burnout and fatigue.

Getting out to run may start to feel more like a burden rather than an activity you look forward to doing. You may experience low motivation, slower paces, and heavy legs. Further, feeling like you have to run every day can result in obsessive-compulsive tendencies and even exercise addiction. Research explains that the "runner's high" may lead to exercise addiction because individuals become reward-seeking in addition to looking for stress and anxiety relief.

Running too much can also have negative impacts on body image and self-esteem. Overexercising and addiction to exercise are linked to eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. One study showed that individuals who are dissatisfied with their bodies showed increased levels of addiction to exercise. Running every day can also result in social isolation as you may pass on social events to run instead.

Tips for Safely Incorporating Daily Running into Your Fitness Routine

There are many safe and healthy ways to add regular and consistent running into your fitness routine. Start slowly and gradually increase the mileage and intensity. To accomplish to this goal, many runners abide by the 10% rule, which advises not to increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week.

For example, if you run 10 miles in one week, you wouldn't want to go above 13 to 15 miles the next week. Mix up the types of runs you do as well. Some runs can be short and slow recovery runs, some at tempo pace or incorporating intervals, and others can be long runs.

Add Strength Training and Cross Training

Strength training and cross training are both essential elements in any runner's arsenal. Consider also including biking, swimming, or yoga into your training regimen.

When you focus on building muscle in key muscle groups used for running such as glutes, hamstrings, and core, you can increase your running performance and prevent injury. Incorporating strength training or cross training days also gives your body a break from high-impact exercise and allows your joints, tendons, and ligaments to repair themselves.

Prioritize Rest

Also, rest days are essential. Listen to your body for when you need one. If you're feeling extra fatigued or sore one day, that might be a good sign to take a day off. Listening to your body also can help stave off mental burnout and injuries before it's too late.

Fuel and Hydrate Your Body

Something that frequently is overlooked in running is hydration. Hydration is critical for preventing fatigue, nausea, and muscle cramping. If you aren't replenishing lost fluids and running every day, this can result in serious consequences like heat exhaustion.

Remember, adequate fuel and hydration is imperative to keeping your body running. Your body will heal more efficiently when fueled with enough calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat as well as water and electrolytes.

Use the Right Gear

While running doesn't involve a lot of equipment, having the right gear is important. Be sure you are wearing comfortable shoes that fit your gait and have plenty of support.

Buy new shoes when they have worn down or you don't feel the support any longer. Also, wear proper clothing for the temperature as to not get too hot or too cold. And if you are running at night, wear bright colors and look for well-lit paths.

The Bottom Line

Running regularly as part of your fitness routine certainly affords you many mental and physical benefits. But you do not need to run every day of the week to reap the benefits. Instead, mix up your exercise with strength training and cross training to decrease your risk of injury and burnout. Also, prioritize rest days as well and listen to your body when something hurts or you just aren't feeling it. If you are considering running daily, talk to a healthcare to ensure running is safe for you.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
Rebecca Jaspan is a registered dietitian specializing in anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, as well as disordered eating and orthorexia.