Running happy genuinely improves your performance. Earlier this year, researchers discovered periodically smiling while running can boost your performance by as much as 2.8 per cent. But – and this is important – said smile can’t be fake.

It helps if you’re running outdoors. Running in nature helps reduce levels of stress hormones and lower risk factors for anxiety and depression, while also increasing working memory performance. Lucky for us in Australia, the great outdoors is never far away, even in our cities.

If you want to double-down on running happy, try one of the new audio-guided runs available on the Nike+ Run Club app – they were created in partnership with guided meditation app Headspace and aim to foster a clearer state of mind.

So where to run? Here’s our guide to some of the most visually arresting runs in major cities across Australia.

Given the volume of sweat locals can create just going from office to coffeeshop, Brisbanites probably need less exercise than the rest of the country. However, their highly developed heat-tolerance means their runs are innately hardcore.

For an eight-kilometre, 45-minute mission that also takes in some of the city’s stunning river and CBD views, head south from the city across Victoria Bridge and turn left when you hit South Bank. Follow the trail along the sparkling Brisbane River and around the U-bend past Kangaroo Point Cliffs. You’ll collect views of the river, city and botanic gardens all in one run.

For those in need of extra punishment, pound the cliff staircases for a truly sweaty workout. For the more sensible-minded, follow the route to the Story Bridge, crossing over and returning along the city side.

Sydney has more than its fair share of stunning runs: think Coogee to Clovelly; Bondi to Bronte; or Woolloomooloo through the Botanic Gardens to the Opera House and back. The competition’s stiff, but one of the most picturesque tracks is in the city’s south: Cronulla.

Starting at the Don Lucas Reserve, run down to North Cronulla Beach and follow the break-wall past the RSL and onto the Esplanade, where you’ll follow the bay along the cliff. The beachside apartments give way to groves of she oaks, and the view will change from ocean to the national park out at Bundeena as you scoot down around Hungry Point and into Gunnamatta Bay.

It’s a solid if manageable run – with a couple of hills for good measure – but you can soothe yourself with a long black or three at Ham – aka Harry and Mario’s – when you’re done.

West Australia’s most iconic inner-city run is, naturally, along the banks of the mighty Swan River. Known to locals as “The Bridges”, your classic trail stretches between the Narrows and the Causeway. But the inveterate runner will want a scenic trail less trodden – so run down through the trees of Mardalup Park, across Victoria Gardens and down past Trinity College. From there cross over the Causeway to Herisson Island and Burswood beyond.

You’ll follow the Swan up McCallum Park, past the striking new Crown Towers and along the narrow spit of land by Optus Stadium. The undulating trail is about a 20-minute, four-kilometre loop overall that takes you through multiple visual settings, but runners in search of something extra can tack on the Narrows bridge across the river for a truly monster run.

Melbourne’s The Tan might be the traditional running spot to “be seen”, but that track’s traffic can also make it punishing when busy, despite its lush garden-side location.

There is an alternative. Beloved by those more in awe of nature than others, the Merri Creek Trail is 21 kilometres of surprisingly pristine bushland threaded around an undulating and diverse track. Beginning at the Coburg Velodrome in the north, it snakes down through the CERES gardens and winds alongside the creek, where tiny bellbirds peep out from the tea-tree groves.

Cross the bridge near the Studley Park Boathouse and follow the Yarra up to where it meets the Merri at the spectacular Dights Falls. Then, you can tackle the hills that lead up Merri Creek. When you’re well and truly puffed, it’s a cinch to pop out into Fitzroy North and avail yourself of the many cafes along the way. Bonus: this is the perfect trail for runners with doggos.

Flat inner-city Adelaide was made for runners. From the ocean at West Beach to the hills at Atheltone, the Linear Park Trail covers 35 kilometres along the River Torrens. Of course, you don’t want to schlep quite that far in an hour after work, so there are several discrete but scenic sections you can explore.

The Torrens Park Run is a very manageable five kilometres from the Torrens Lake Weir towards the Adelaide Zoo, skirting the edges of the city past Pinky Flat, Angas Gardens and the lush Botanic Gardens festival precinct.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Nike. Log your run with the Nike+ Run Club app.