Although walking is great exercise, a study conducted by the Journal of American College of Cardiology has found that running is the way to reduce the risk of premature death. Running just five to 10 minutes a day at slow speeds was found to be beneficial, even among people with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure who were not previously runners.
Safety is the key to capitalizing on the benefits of running, particularly if you’re over the age of 50. Here are a few of the top tips for running safely if you are in that age group.
Get a Check-Up
If you can walk, you can more than likely start or continue an exercise program that includes running. However, it is always a good idea to have regular medical check-ups to ensure you are able to engage in any type of physical activity. Chances are, your doctor will approve and even encourage your running endeavors.
Focus on Distance, Not Speed
For younger runners, speed may be of some importance. However, if you are over 50, slowing your running pace is a better way to maintain the integrity of your aging joints. Running expert Jeff Galloway suggests that runners over 50 employ the run-walk-run method of getting your miles in.This entails walking briskly for about two minutes in order to warm up. After the muscles are sufficiently loose, jog for 30 to 60 seconds, depending on fitness level, and then walk for 30 to 60 seconds. Alternate this sequence for about 30 minutes every other day. Health and fitness experts suggest taking at least 10,000 steps per day, regardless of age.
Listen to Your Body
In your younger years, you may have been able to run or otherwise exert yourself six days a week without complaint, but this may no longer be the case if you are over 50. It is of utmost importance to tune in to your body at this stage of life, and pay attention to aches and pains that may indicate that you should take it easy for a day or two. For example, do not force yourself to run if your knees are hurting. Walk or ride your bike instead that day. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that extra recovery time might be needed.
Give Your Old Shoes the Boot
When it comes to running, any old shoe just will not do. The right running shoe aids in comfort and decreases the risk of injury. A good running shoe should have ample room between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe, with enough room to wiggle your toes comfortably. Look for a wide toe box to allow for proper distribution of weight as your foot hits the ground, and a cushioned insole to absorb some of the impact. A good tip to keep in mind is to shop for shoes towards the end of the day, when your foot is the most swollen, in order to avoid purchasing shoes that are too small.
Work on Balance
As people age, balance becomes more of an issue due to changes in the vestibular system. Lack of balance can lead to falls or other injuries while running. To help offset these natural effects of aging, older athletes should frequently do exercises that improve balance. One simple exercise is to stand on one leg for 30 seconds, alternating legs. Yoga poses are also great for improving balance.
Just because you are over 50 doesn’t mean that you cannot run. In fact, studies show that people who run live longer (in general) than their non-running counterparts. However, safety is essential to a successful running program. Get medical clearance from your doctor, then hit the road wisely. By doing so, you will be on your way to a longer and healthier life.