With the sun now rising around 7.30am – not too early, not too late – it’s the perfect opportunity to head out for a revitalising run. As well as the fantastic cardiovascular benefits, you may be surprised to know that starting a winter’s day with a jog makes you happier and slimmer and keeps you sharp!

At last! Throw those curtains wide – it’s that time of year when you’re waking up to morning sunlight again, with all its promises of energy and optimism. With spring just around the corner, the extra hour or two of light in the morning presents the perfect opportunity to dust off your running shoes and embrace exercise in the great outdoors.

Running is excellent aerobic exercise, and we all know what that means – a healthier heart, stronger lungs and an invigorating way to burn calories. And by running outside in these bracing winter mornings, you’ll not only increase these benefits, but you’ll also enjoy some unique health advantages that you wouldn’t get from a plod on the treadmill or a hot summer jog.

Brighten up your brain

New research shows that a short run in the cold has more benefits for the health of your brain than other, longer aerobic activities. It encourages neurogenesis – aka the growth and repair of your brain’s nerves and cells – according to researchers from the University of Houston and Seattle University. That’s not the only benefit for your mind though – winter sunlight is the perfect antidote to the recent cold and dark months, helping you sleep better at night, and feel happier too. When indirect sunlight safely enters your retinas, it stimulates something called your pineal gland, increasing it up to ten times its normal size. This so-called ‘master gland’ produces melatonin, which helps to regulate a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Natural light exposure also prompts it to make serotonin – the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness and optimal energy levels. Another advantage is thatit’s nice and peaceful at that time of day too – a great opportunity to use this optimistic mood to set your intentions for the rest of the day.