Ask runners why they run and you’ll find many answers — they love how it makes them feel, it’s a way to meditate or think creatively, and it’s a great way to stay in shape. Running might seem hard or intimidating, but the truth is pretty much anyone can become a runner with a plan and a little patience.
Regular cardio has a long list of health benefits — it can improve mood, give you more energy and stamina, and sharpen mental focus and memory. Cardio exercise can improve your blood pressure and cholesterol, build stronger bones, and lower your risk of diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. All that, and it can help you sleep better and boost your sex life too!
Ready? It’s easy to get started!
- First, make sure you have comfortable running shoes with the right support for your feet. If you have flat feet, high arches, or other needs, shop at a store with knowledgeable staff. Don’t forget some comfy socks that fit snugly.
- Invest in at least one piece of bright or reflective clothing if you’ll be outdoors.
- Walk or run with a buddy whenever possible. It’ll keep you motivated, and it’s safer.
- If you’re outside, watch out for cars. Music can make a run more exciting, but make sure the volume is low enough to hear traffic.
- If you run in the sun, wear sunglasses, a hat, and some sunscreen.
- If you run at night, wear something reflective and carry a flashing LED light for safety.
- Always cool down with a walk afterwards and remember to drink plenty of water.
How far, how fast?
- If you’re not active right now, start slow. Walk regularly for a couple of weeks before you try running. (If you’re getting care for a chronic condition, check with your doctor before starting an ambitious exercise plan.)
- When you can walk 30 minutes a time, gradually add in running. There are many training schedules and apps to help with this, like Couch to 5K.
- Even a little can go a long way. A recent study found that runners live up to three years longer than non-runners with as little as 5–10 minutes a day of running (even at a leisurely pace). If running will be your only exercise, your doctor would love to see you do 75 minutes a week.
- You’re going at the right pace if you can still carry on a conversation while running but can’t sing. For most people, this is a sign that they’re working in their target heart rate zone.
- Don’t push it – if you’re tired, take breaks. Going too far too fast can lead to injuries, and that’s the fastest way to fall off your routine.
- Week to week, don’t increase your running time more than 10 percent. So if you run 60 minutes a week, you can go to 66 minutes.
- At first, try to run every other day. As you get more fit, you can work up to running five times a week or more.
- Once you’re able to run for 30 minutes at a time, try challenging yourself with faster speeds or by running uphill.