There are over 50 million runners in the U.S. according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. It keeps growing in popularity among people looking for a way to stay healthy and fit. There are good reasons so many people making running a regular part of their life.

Here is a look at 5 of the best things to love about being a runner.

#1. It’s Mobile.

Why pay gym fees every month and tie yourself to a daily commute getting there to work out? Many Americans have answered that question by switching to running shoes and the neighborhood park.

Wherever you are, you can run. All you need to pack are your running shoes and a comfortable top and pants or shorts. You don’t need expensive, cumbersome equipment to be a successful runner.

It doesn’t matter the occasion, you can still get your exercise and your endorphins. You can run if you are:

  • On vacation
  • At a family reunion
  • Going to a business convention
  • Visiting friends
  • Just traveling

Hotels and resorts cater to runners with marked trails and maps of safe routes to take. In fact, an entire city has made itself runner friendly. Istanbul, Turkey has added trail markers throughout the city because it gets so many European travellers who like to run.

#2. It’s an Anytime Activity

With the right clothes, you can run throughout the year, regardless of the weather. The endorphins help to reduce the irritation from rain, sleet and snow. An added advantage is that after a run through troublesome weather, you can be irritatingly smug as you mention it to your less active friends.

In hot weather, you can run early in the morning or later at night. The internet and running clubs make it easy to connect with other members of the running community so you never have to run alone.

#3. It’s Healthy

Running is great for your brain and your body. Just look what it can do for you:

  • Burn calories
  • Stabilize your blood sugar
  • Deepen your sleep
  • Keep you regular
  • Aid flexibility and balance
  • Improve aerobic capacity
  • Help functional fitness
  • Make your muscles stronger
  • Reduce the chance of osteoporosis
  • Improve circulation
  • Get more oxygen to your brain
  • Reduce mood swings
  • Help you concentrate
  • Lessen the effects of depression and anxiety

#4. It’s a Conversation Starter

Wear your running clothes to a social event. Fellow runners and wannabes will naturally congregate in your area. It’s a simple way to break the ice and get a conversation going.

If you just finished a race, try wearing some of your bling to a party. This can take some confidence to pull off, but fellow runners will understand. This too is a great way to get people talking. Runners love to compare swag bags.

On the beach or at the pool, your scarred feet can make you an center of attention. If you see someone you’d like to know better, take off your shoes and walk by them. If that doesn’t work, you can sit down close by and wiggle your toes. Black toes and odd growths speak to fellow runners, giving you an immediate line of communication.

#5. It’s a People Sport.

The running community is friendly, active and inclusive. If you’ve got running shoes on and you’re making an effort to get around the track, you’re embraced as a fellow runner.

If you’re traveling, ask at the hotel desk for the name of the local running club or research it on the internet. In most communities, you’ll find at least one group that meets early in the morning or in the evening. It’s a great way to meet local people for runs, but also for a meal and conversation.

In your local town, team up with runners at a club or just neighbors you meet on your morning run in the park. Even if you like to run alone, you can enjoy the camaraderie of a friendly wave from another runner.