Jogging is perhaps the oldest form of exercise and one that offers some of the greatest health benefits.
Jogging has shown to improve heart health, assist with weight loss, and improve mood. Worried about your joints? Some studies have found that running may actually improve the health of aging knees and ease symptoms of osteoarthritis like joint pain and stiffness.
Still, many people resist running. They believe it's too hard, too stressful, or too time-consuming. But they may want to rethink that mindset. New research suggests that you don't have to run very far, fast, or frequently to benefit from running.
You don't need to jog fast or far to reap its many rewards.
A little goes a long way
For instance, researchers recently looked at 14 studies, involving a total of more than 232,000 people, that explored the connection between running and the risk of death, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The results were published online Nov. 4, 2019, by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The researchers found that any amount of running was associated with a 27% lower risk of death from all causes compared with no running. The risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 30% lower, and death from cancer 23% lower.
What was most surprising was that even small amounts of running were helpful. The study found that running for as little as 50 minutes a week had significant health advantages.
This is good news for older men who have trouble fitting in aerobic exercise, says Michael Clem, a physical therapist at the Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Outpatient Center in Marblehead, Massachusetts. "The older we get, the more we need to get moving to stay fit and healthy for the longer term," he says. "Running for less than an hour per week is a simple way to get the benefits if you are struggling to find the time."
Get on the track
Don't underestimate your ability to run. Even if you are a complete novice or the idea of running sounds off-putting, you should still give it a try. "Many people think running is not for them, or they can't do it well, but running is a simple skill and an easy activity to get into," says Clem. "After all, we've been running since we could walk."
The best exercises are the ones you enjoy, and you can't achieve the benefits of running if you are not committed to doing it. But there are many ways to adapt running to match your fitness level, ability, and interest level. "If people can find the right approach, they may be surprised how much running helps them and how much they enjoy it," says Clem.
Jog, walk, repeat
A run/walk program is an ideal approach for people who are hesitate about running. With run/walk, you run for a brief period and then take a walking break to help your body recover. You repeat this back-and-forth cycle for a certain amount of time or distance. "It's an effective way to ease into running, as it lets you work at your pace, ability, and comfort level," says Clem. "This approach also helps you practice correct form and build up your endurance and confidence."
Men who have a history of heart problems or have concerns about their safety should get a doctor's okay before starting any running program. If possible, have your running form examined by someone who specializes in running mechanics, like a consultant from a specialty running store or a physical therapist.
"Using video analysis, they can study your running mechanics like posture, cadence [step rate], step width, arm swing, vertical oscillation, and trunk lean," says Clem. "They can help create an appropriate training regimen so you run with less effort and stress on your joints."
There are many ways to begin a run/walk program as a novice or even someone who is just getting back into running after an injury. The goal of a run/walk program is to slowly increase your running time and decrease your walking time.
Here's how to begin:
- Run for one to two minutes and then walk for four to five minutes until you have fully recovered. Repeat the pattern five times.
- Plan to run using this program every other day. "It's typically best to stay at this run/walk interval for one to two weeks before progressing," says Clem.
- Don't worry about speed and run at a pace that is comfortable. Do a "talk test" while running to measure effort. "If you can't talk in full sentences, then you may be pushing yourself too hard," says Clem.
- Once this run/walk schedule feels comfortable, increase your running time to three or four minutes and walk two to three minutes or until you have recovered. Repeat the pattern five times.
- When this becomes easy, run for five minutes and walk for a minute or until you have recovered. Complete the pattern five times. At this point you are now running 25 minutes in one bout of exercise. "Remember to always listen to your body about what feels good and what doesn't," says Clem. "Speed up and slow down as needed, but always maintain good form over everything else."
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