**Mind** 1)  Get Smart Pounding the pavement is a vigorous cardiovascular activity.  It does two important things to our brains.  First, it can actually trigger the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels – a process called neurogenesis.  Secondly, it produces new blood vessels – a process called angiogenesis.  All the new nerves and blood vessels pumping oxygen and glucose-rich blood to the brain leads to increased brain-tissue volume and promotes expansion of the hippocampus (that sea horse-shaped part of our brain that is linked to memory and learning).  In other words, running can increase our ability to think.  Learning and storing new information and memories has the added benefit of staving off age-related dementia or neurocognitive decline. 2)  Planning Powerhouse The best time to take a test, plan an event, or make a schedule is after a run.  Hitting your stride is proven to increase efficiency and productivity.  Executive functions (i.e., decision-making, planning, strategizing, organizing, and multi-tasking) are carried out in the frontal cortex of our brains.  All of these processes work better in people who lace up on a regular basis. 3)  Quick Recall Running helps us create new memories and retrieve those memories on demand.  Memory circuits rely on the caudate nucleus, a midbrain structure sitting below the corpus collosum.  Running improves the quality of the signals being transmitted through those circuits. **Body** 4) Stay Physically Fit Running is a great way to lose weight, but more importantly, it can increase heart and lung function and improve overall health.  Running improves HDL, the “good cholesterol,” and reduces LDL, the “bad cholesterol”—reducing the risk of stroke.  For women, it also lowers the risk of breast cancer.  Running is a doctor-recommended intervention for the early stages of diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.  By helping the arteries retain their elasticity and strengthening the heart, your chances of suffering a heart attack can be significantly reduced. **Spirit** 5) Uniting a Community In my experience, no other event unites elite athletes, health enthusiasts and “Joe six-packs” quite like running.  Whether you’re doing it with a group, going it alone, or cheering from the sidelines, runners embrace each other in a fascinating subculture that is built on respect and support.  Organized racing is a terrific way to unite a community.  Since the Boston bombings, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of running events in our city.  The upcoming “Run to Remember,” an annual Boston half-marathon that supports law enforcement, received 1/3 of its registrants in the days following April 15th.  Marathon officials are still trying to figure out how best to handle the flood of interest in next year’s annual April race. 6)   Esteem Booster Running can provide a noticeable boost to your confidence and self-esteem.  By setting and achieving goals, you can help give yourself a greater sense of empowerment that will leave you feeling much happier. 7) Relieve Stress Putting one foot in front of the other is an extremely meditative and cathartic process.  It helps to relieve stress that could otherwise lead to a number of mood, anxiety, sleep and health problems.  Whether you’re allowing yourself time to think about life’s problems or time to escape them, tension goes by the wayside as you fly over the miles.  Sprints are also a great way to safely manifest feelings of anger and, when you’re done, negative thoughts and emotions can be abandoned on the pavement. 8) Erase Depression Getting up and running past inertia is tough when you’re depressed, but if you can do it, then your brain will secrete hormones that naturally improve your mood.  This is one of the best and fastest ways to get out over a brief and mild depression. 9) Attitude Adjustment Not only does running have the potential to purge you of stress and depression, it can adjust your attitude.  The runner’s high is achieved after a release of endorphins that can cause euphoria.  Even short distance runners can achieve a sense of happiness  after running. 10) Affordable Sport You can run anywhere in the world, anytime, with minimal gear.  There’s always a gym, no membership required, in your backyard if you’re a runner.  From urban sidewalks to rural trails and all the terrain in between, the world abounds with places for runners to explore. Runners—and the fans that cheer us along—have a well-developed resiliency that allows us to bounce back after adversity.  When our minds, bodies, spirits—or all three—feel broken or bruised, running is a healthy way to regain even more than just the spring in your step.]]>