Regular running makes people happier and more confident in everyday life, according to new research by Glasgow Caledonian University.
More than 8000 runners registered with parkrun, the nationwide weekly free 5K run, and fitness app Strava, were quizzed on all aspects of health and wellbeing by researchers.
The overwhelming majority, 89%, said running regularly has made them happier and has had a positive impact on their mental health and body image.
The runners surveyed scored 4.4 on the Oxford Happiness Scale, a well-established method used by scientists to measure wellbeing, above the average score of 4 for the general population.
Weekly 5K parkruns now take place every Saturday morning in 38 locations in Scotland following the launch of the first Glasgow event in Pollok in 2008.
Dr Emmanuelle Tulle, reader in Sociology at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Running gives you a feeling you have achieved something and a sense of tremendous satisfaction.
“It adds to a general sense of wellbeing, you feel good and it helps boosts your self-confidence.
“The combination of attending parkrun and being able to track your progress on Strava makes runners feel as if they are not on their own, it enables them to see the point of running. They are much more likely to maintain regular exercise as a result and reap the benefits.
“There is a combination of competitiveness and togetherness, which is extremely beneficial.”
A total of 8157 runners from across the UK completed the online survey last month.
The research sought to assess the impact of parkrun and Strava, which acts as a social network and allows people to monitor their performance and connect with fellow runners.
Runners quizzed spoke about the benefits of being part of a ‘positive, supportive and inclusive community,’ which creates ‘strong bonds’ and ‘encourages you to push yourself to improve’.
The survey found 83% felt more motivated to exercise through using the app while 55% said taking part in parkrun had a positive impact on their social life.
Gareth Mills, UK country manager for Strava, said: “Having data to prove that running makes you happier, and being part of the Strava and parkrun communities boosts your motivation, is fantastic news.
“We know running is good for us physically, here we see the psychological benefits that being part of an active community can bring.”
Parkrun, which is organised by volunteers and was first held in Teddington in London in 2004, takes place in more than 500 locations across the UK and around 1400 parks worldwide.