Where were you on May 26, 1969? Some of us weren’t even born yet, or you might have been too young to remember, but for Jon Sutherland, that date marks the beginning of his running streak.
That’s right; Sutherland, who has the longest active running streak, has run every day for 19,334 days (52.93 years), according to Streak Runners International.
While this is extremely impressive, he is not alone. Many runners challenge themselves to maintain a running streak, which involves going for a run every day of at least one mile without a single day off.
But is this healthy, or is it bad to run every day? In this guide, we will explore the potential downsides of a daily run to hopefully answer the ever-important question of potential run streakers and enthusiastic runners, “Is it bad to run every day?”
We will look at:
- Is It Bad To Run Every Day?
- Should I Run Every Day?
- Downsides Of Running Every Day
- Tips For Running Every Day
Let’s get started!
Is It Bad to Run Every Day?
Even if you are hesitant to consider yourself a “runner” due to the infrequency of your runs, chances are you are well aware of the many health benefits of running.
Studies show that runners have a 25%–40% lower risk of premature mortality and have an extra three years of life expectancy compared to non-runners.
However, running everyday increases the risk of overuse injuries and overtraining and may not provide the health benefits associated with a more moderate approach to running.
A study examining the association between jogging and longevity in 17,589 healthy men and women aged 20–98 years from the Copenhagen City Heart Study found there to be a U-shaped relation between jogging and mortality risk.
Essentially, the risk of death from all causes was highest with little to no jogging but also high levels of training as well. The sweet spot seemed to be around 2.5 hours of jogging per week, which can be thought of as running 5 days per week for 30 minutes.
So, is it bad to run every day? The ideal frequency or number of days per week you should run depends on several factors, such as the following:
#1: Running Experience
Beginner runners should not run every day because it takes time for the bones, muscles, and connective tissues to adapt to the impact of running.
Starting off with 2-3 days per week is ideal, and you can gradually increase to running 4-5 days per week over the first few months. After a year or so, your body might be able to safely handle running 5-6 days per week, depending on your overall health and training load.
#2: Current Fitness Level
Even if you’re an experienced runner, if you’ve been sidelined with an injury or coming back from extended time off, you have to be mindful of returning to running gradually and including plenty of rest days.
#3: Running and Fitness Goals
How many days per week you should run is guided by your goals. Are you training for a race? If so, what is the distance of the race? In general, longer races necessitate longer training runs and higher daily mileage.
Are you running as part of a weight-loss plan? If so, are you also adjusting your diet? Are you primarily running for stress relief? To spend time with friends? Your goals with running largely influence how often you should run.
#4: Injury History and Risk
Your injury history and general injury risk level have a significant impact on how many days a week you should run. Runners who are prone to injuries should run fewer days and take more rest days or consider supplementing with low-impact cross-training.
How do you know if you’re prone to injuries? Runners who have had previous running injuries, particularly overuse injuries like stress fractures, runner’s knee, or plantar fasciitis, are particularly susceptible to incurring another injury.
Studies suggest that runners who have a history of a previous running-related injury have a substantially higher risk of getting another running-related injury. This is also true for runners who wear orthotics (probably less so because of the orthotics themselves, but because of their abnormal biomechanics that led them to wear the orthotics in the first place).
A high BMI can also increase the impact and stresses on your musculoskeletal system and thus can increase the risk of injuries.
#5: Run Distance
How far you run each day is a major component of determining your overall running volume. It’s one thing if you’re wondering if it is bad to run every day, but you’re only running 1-2 miles each day, and a very different scenario if you’re running 6, 8, or 10 miles or more per day.
#6: Run Intensity
Similar to the importance of distance, the intensity of your runs also influences whether it’s “bad” to run every day. Varying the intensity of your workouts is one way to not only accelerate your fitness and help you run faster but also reduce your risk of injury.
Should I Run Every Day?
In most cases, aside from elite runners, few runners should run every day, and even elite runners take rest days here and there.
Ideally, even if you are a high-mileage runner who’s competitive in your age group, you’ll take at least one day off of running per week and either rest or do some form of low-intensity cross-training exercise instead of running.
This relative break from high-impact activity will reduce your risk of injuries and give your body time to recover.
Depending on the various factors previously discussed, such as your injury risk, your body weight, your experience level, and your overall health, you may need an even more balanced ratio of rest or cross-training days to running days per week than this 6:1 scenario.
Downsides of Running Every Day
As beneficial as running can be for your physical and mental health, it still puts a lot of stress on your body, which is why even professional runners take days off. So when deciding, is it bad to run every day, consider the following potential downsides:
#1: Running Every Day Increases Your Risk Of Overuse Injuries
The biggest drawback to running every day is that it can increase your risk of overuse injuries, such as stress fractures, IT band syndrome, and shin splints. The body needs time to repair the microscopic damage incurred by running.
Running every day does not necessarily give your cells and tissue the recovery they need to prevent fatigue and, ultimately, failure.
#2: Running Every Day Can Lead to Overtraining Syndrome
The importance of adequate recovery is well known, and running everyday can lead to functional overreaching or overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome can cause performance declines, sleep disruptions, depression or irritability, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, appetite changes, and a weakened immune system.
#3: Running Every Day May Limit Your Fitness
Doing the same type of exercise every single day, be it running, cycling, walking, or otherwise, subjects the muscles to the same motions and workloads day after day.
This can only get you so far from a fitness standpoint. Doing different types of exercise introduces new movement patterns and enables you to utilize different muscles or at least the same muscles differently.
#4: Running Every Day Can Be Monotonous
Just as the muscles have something to gain when you do different types of exercise that vary the loads and strains on the body, so too does your mind thrive on variety.
Running every day can lead to boredom or mental burnout, particularly if you don’t vary your routes, pace, or running companion.
Tips for Running Every Day
If you have answered “no” to the question: is it bad to run every day, and want to try your own running streak for one reason or another, here are a few tips to increase the safety of a daily run:
- Rotate your shoes: alternating between different pairs of shoes has been found to reduce the risk of injuries by up to 39%. Rotating your running shoes ensures the shoes provide the cushioning and stability they should. If you cycle between different types of shoes, you further reduce injury risk by giving your body a slightly different set of stresses throughout the week, minimizing overuse.
- Keep your runs short: If you want to run every day just to maintain a running streak, keep relative “rest” days in your week by doing just a 10-minute run once or twice per week. Keep your overall weekly mileage reasonable for your experience level as well.
- Get enough sleep: Our bodies recover when we sleep at night, so make sure you’re getting at least 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep each night.
- Do the small things: Offset the stress on your body from daily runs with focused recovery practices, such as icing achy joints, stretching and doing mobility work, and always getting in a good warmup and cool down.
- Fuel your body: keep your body healthy by eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet with an adequate caloric intake to support your training.
After reading through all of our factors and tips, what have you decided is best for you? Is it bad to run every day?
Remember, the most important thing to consider is your health and running longevity, so take very good care of yourself if you do decide to take on a running streak.
To help keep yourself in tip-top shape in other aspects of your health, take a look at our nutrition guides:
Running Nutrition Guide: What To Eat For Runners