Running is one of the best aerobic activities available for fitness enthusiasts. Whether your goal is to shed a few pounds for summer, shape and tone your body, improve your endurance or train for an upcoming race, a good running/training program can make all the difference.
However, running is also a “high-impact” form of exercise. High impact exercises, if performed too often or incorrectly, can cause damage to the bones, joints and muscles of the body, leaving you sidelined and unable to train.
Therefore, while running is definitely a great component in any comprehensive exercise regimen, the manner and frequency at which you engage in this type of exercise must be carefully considered.
In this article, we will discuss the oft-asked question of whether “it is okay to run every day,” while we also explain some of the benefits and safety concerns that underlie this question.
Can I Run Every Day: Yes or No?
People who love the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that running offers often ask the question “is it okay to run every day?” And the short answer is yes.
Running can definitely be an activity that you pursue daily, albeit with a few caveats. While running “some” every day is perfectly healthy, running too far, too fast and for too long each and every day can have some very serious health consequences.
Most professional runners—those that compete at a very high level—already know they must stagger their training routines in order to keep their bodies in tip-top shape. But what about beginners?
Remember, running is a very high-impact exercise, with constant pounding on the lower body, so novice runners must be very careful when putting together an exercise plan that incorporates running 7 days a week.
Benefits of Running Every Day
According to health experts, there are a slew of physical and mental benefits associated with running, especially if you run every day. In fact, running for even 10 minutes daily offers some major health advantages. Some of these benefits include:
- Lowers your risk of physical disease. Running—and exercise in general—has a number of health benefits. Regular runners, for example, are less likely to suffer cardiac events and strokes, and in general, they experience less cardiovascular disease than non-runners/exercisers. Running every day can also make you less likely to develop cancer. Runners can lower and maintain a healthy blood pressure, and because runners are less likely to be obese, their risk of developing Type-2 diabetes is also greatly lessened.
- Helps improve mood. Study after study has proven that running is also good for what ails you mentally. As such, there are now many mental health professionals that encourage running to their patients suffering from things like depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. Running every day may also lower your risk for developing a whole host of neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
How to Run Every Day: A Beginner’s Guide
How you put together your weekly running regimen is a task that must take your specific level of fitness into consideration. In other words, those just starting out with the activity should not try to run long distances every single day.
Despite one’s enthusiasm to get fit, lose weight, etc., trying to do too much too fast is simply a recipe for disaster, one that can lead to shin splints, micro-fractures and other painful injuries, which, most importantly, can then damper your enthusiasm before you even get the chance to meaningfully tackle your goals.
While professional runners are free to create a running plan that meets their particular needs and goals, beginners should ALWAYS start slowly and work their way up to longer training sessions as they become more physically and aerobically fit.
According to research, while it is certainly okay for fitness enthusiasts to run every day, the risks associated with the activity begin to outweigh the benefits once you surpass 5 hours a week. For those who wish to run every day, then, it is best to create a schedule that stays well within those time parameters.
This does not mean that you should necessarily divide that 5 hours figure by 7 days a week and thus commit to running exactly 42 minutes each day. Not at all.
Instead, you should create a schedule that staggers your running time so that some daily sessions are longer and slower, while others are shorter and more intense. This will not only keep you within the recommended time frame, it will also benefit you physically, allowing you to get stronger and more aerobically fit as the weeks go by.
However you decide to stagger your runs every day, one activity that can NEVER be ignored—on any day—is stretching. Running without prior stretching is a sure way to guarantee an injury.
When muscles are cold and tight, the odds of sustaining a muscle strain or muscle pull increase dramatically. Thus, every major muscle group in your body should be adequately stretched prior to your run, with special emphasis placed on your calves, hamstrings, thighs and back.
Some of the stretches that are ideal before a run include:
- To stretch your calves, start from a standing position and place your palms flat against a wall. Walk one leg back until it is nearly impossible to stand flat footed (to keep both the toe and heel on the ground). Hold that position for one minute and repeat with the other leg.
- From a standing position, bend one leg behind you, grab your ankle and slowly force your foot towards your buttocks. Hold that position for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg. This stretches you thighs (quadriceps)
- Assume a sitting position with both legs flat on the ground in front of you and your toes facing upwards. Then, bend at the waist and try to grab your toes with your fingers. Remember to keep your legs flat on the ground at all times to get a good stretch on the hamstrings.
- There are several things you can do to stretch the back, including the dead man’s hang, where you simply stand and bend over from the waist as you try to touch your toes. Hold that position for at least 30 seconds. Trunk twists are also a good stretch for the lower back.
Other popular stretching exercises can be added to this routine as you become more experienced and advanced.
About Attire and Accessories
If you intend to incorporate a daily running plan into your overall fitness strategy it is vital that you don the proper attire when doing so. Chief among these attire components is the proper running shoe.
Different shoes are designed with different purposes in mind, so it is crucial that you select a lightweight shoe that is designed for running (as opposed to, say, a tennis shoe). In selecting the proper shoe, we highly recommend that you get professionally fitted prior to making your purchase.
This will ensure that you get the proper shoe for your specific foot, which will decrease the odds of injury and the runner’s worst foe: blisters.
Also, when running you should always try and choose lightweight clothing that allows the skin to breathe. If you intend to run during the cold morning hours, be sure to dress in layers that can be removed as your body starts to heat up.
Caps and beanies can keep the sun off your head and sunglasses will allow you to see clearly on those daybreak outings when the sun is very low in the sky. Finally, always remember to apply sunscreen before every run—at least 30 SPF or higher.