Many people are unsure if running is the right exercise for them, and more often than not, the answer is yes.  Running is an excellent exercise that has been proven to increase your quality of life, energy level, and health.  However, running can cause certain health issues and injuries if you approach it unprepared as a first-timer. The first step to being a good runner is being an informed one!

Just Run

Most believe that running further and longer is better for you than running shorter distances, and many dedicated runners fear slowing down when they are sore or just not “up for it.”

However, you can still run in moderation, even if you’re not exactly up for a half-marathon–recent studies indicate that you can get the same health benefit out of a 5-minute run as a 50-minute run. The study followed runners and non-runners around for fiftteen years, recording their daily activities. It discovered that all of the runners, despite how much or how little they ran, had a 30% less risk of death and a 45% less risk of death from heart attack or stroke.  Running for an hour a week versus six hours a week can lead to the same results. These benefits were consistent in runners regardless of age, sex, BMI, alcohol use, or other outstanding health conditions. In the end, it does not matter how much you run or how fast you go–just as long as you do it.

Just Getting Started?

Running does not have an age limit. You can begin your journey at any time: Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathoner, didn’t set out on his first run until his 80s! Beginning slowly, Singh worked up to marathons and completed his last marathon at the age of 101 in well under two hours. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to get some tips if you are just starting out:

  • Be sure to get the right running shoes.  Running shoes are very important; they provide both comfort and injury prevention. Not all shoes fit everyone properly, the fit can vary based on your foot shape and running style.
  • Start and finish your workouts with a warm-up and cool-down period. Ever notice how runners don’t immediately stop running when they finish a race? Most continue at a slower or walking pace for another lap. It’s important to let your body know you’re beginning to gear up or settle down.
  • Upper body posture is a vital part of running. Improper form can lead to neck, back, arm, and shoulder pain that can hinder your performance and ability.  Your arms should sway back and forth at 90 degrees with your back straight and your shoulders level–if you have difficulty holding this posture correctly, talk to your physician about ActivAided, which encourages good posture for both running and in everyday life.
  • Do not try too much too soon. Pushing yourself before you are ready can be dangerous. Try to mix up your workout with running, walking, and cycling. Remember, speed is not everything. Learn to pace yourself–it’ll pay off in the long run.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This simple tip can help keep cramps away. Especially if you’re just beginning, start off slow and increase when you are ready.

Avoid Injuries

You always hear that stretching is the most important part of injury prevention when working out.  While it does play a major role in preparing your body and muscles for the upcoming workout, there are many other factors that need to be considered as well. Be careful of the terrain you choose to run on, avoiding running on concrete at all costs. Grass and dirt trails are the best running environment for your feet and shins because they’re soft; however, be careful on these because irregularities in the terrain may catch you off-guard

Most importantly, if you are injured, do not return before you are ready. Running too soon after a serious injury can cause even more damage. Ease back into training with cycling or using the elliptical–consult your physician or physical therapist where appropriate.

Starting a new task can be daunting.  Nevertheless, with the correct facts and information, it doesn’t have to be. Running is difficult, but in the end, the benefits do outweigh the costs; just be sure to properly prepare yourself before embarking on your journey.