When it comes to staying in shape, there’s no shortage of ways you can fit a little more exercise into your days. Very few of these methods, however, can promote the conditioning your body needs while remaining cost effective quite like running does. Although you can easily spend a small fortune buying the latest running shoes, shorts and gear, you can also run without shelling out a single cent. Another bonus? It’s one of the best ways to burn calories and get in shape fast.

In addition to being one of the cheapest forms of exercise, running also offers a slew of other benefits;

1. Weight Control:

Running is one of the best ways to torch through a lot of calories in a minimal amount of time. Excess calories can quickly turn into fat when they aren’t being used by your body, which is a compelling reason to lace up your shoes and hit the pavement. The only other form of exercise that can burn more calories per mile is cross country skiing. By incorporating a few 20 minute runs per week, you’ll be well on your way to a leaner version of yourself.

2. Preventing Osteoarthritis:

Aside from aging, your body weight greatly contributes to osteoarthritis, which weakens the joints in your body. This weakening occurs as cartilage and other materials attempt to resist against the amount of weight that has to be moved. By running regularly, you can help keep your weight down and decrease the effects of this debilitating condition.

3. Enhancing Your Mood:

The term “runner’s high” is something all runners look forward to experiencing, and generally occurs after you put yourself through a rigorous workout. When you push yourself to physical exhaustion, the body produces endorphins in order to deal with the physical stress. These endorphins are mood enhancers that provide you with an euphoric sense of being that has aptly been dubbed the “runner’s high”.

4. Improving Concentration:

Any physical activity can get the heart pumping blood throughout your body – especially to your brain – and running does this especially well. Your mood isn’t the only thing that becomes enhanced when your body starts pushing blood to your brain, either; you may just find your level of concentration increases after a nice, long run, too.

5. Stamina Building:

Having a higher stamina can help you with virtually any task that requires physical activity. By developing a regular routine of running, you are conditioning your body to remain active over long periods of time. In turn, this can further enhance all of your physical activities, whether you are water skiing on the lake or in for a weekend of house cleaning. Running can improve all physical aspects of your life.

6. Defining, not Developing:

Weights definitely have their place when it comes to burning calories, getting fit and providing a way to improve your strength. However, not everyone wants to bulk up or increase their muscle mass. Running helps define your muscles while conditioning your body for longevity.

We all learn to walk and run at some point; why not benefit from the human ability to simply move about? You can keep your body physically fit and active simply by taking a short run around your neighborhood. So what are you waiting for? Put on your running shoes and get your feet moving! You just may find yourself in the best shape you’ve ever been after a short amount of time.