Running every day is a challenge beginners and advanced runners alike want to try. It can certainly be done – many runners have successfully run every day for a month or more.
Accomplishing this can help you build a routine if you’re wanting to become a more consistent runner. It can help you lose weight by burning calories each day. Running regularly can also increase your health and boost your immune system.
But how much running is too much?
Typical race training plans give you five days of runnings and two rest days. So for the highly ambitious, is it OK to run every day?
We’ll explore some benefits and potential risks involved in building up a running streak.
We’ve also checked with some experts to have them weigh in on the matter.
5 Benefits of Running Every Day
All experts recommend some type of exercise every day.
On top of running, that could also be walking, hiking, swimming, cycling…any low impact type of movement that gets your heart and body moving.
But running itself does have some incredible benefits to your physical and mental health.
1. Running Helps Lower Anxiety and Depression
When you experience stress, your mind bears the brunt of that pressure. Running helps relieve some of that stress.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Go for a run to clear your head.” The reason this works for so many people is that running improves your concentration and focus, which enhances your overall cognitive function and pushes away that anxiety and depression.
Unfortunately, running can’t completely eliminate anxiety or depression, especially if your doctor recommends medication to stabilize you.
But it has been shown to significantly decrease many of the symptoms of these mental disorders.
2. Running Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease
The American College of Cardiology released evidence that runners have a longer life expectancy than non-runners. They released findings from a study that showed runners have a 30% lower risk of death from all causes and 45% lower risk of death from heart disease or a stroke.
3. Running Lowers the Risk of Cancer
The British Medicine Journal reported results from 14 different studies where they evaluated over 25,000 deaths. They found that runners had a 23% lower cancer mortality rate than non-runners.
4. Running Causes Increased Maximum Oxygen Uptake
What does that mean?
Oxygen needs to be transported efficiently through your body.
This means that your heart pumps a certain amount of blood per beat. When your resting heart rate is lower, your maximum heart rate (during intense exercise) is lower too. That allows your heart to pump more blood, which in turn increases your lung capacity for oxygen – or more correctly, your VO2 max.
5. Running Improves Sleep
Daily running increases slow wave sleep while you rest. Slow wave sleep is a deeper sleep, where your brain and body get the chance to rejuvenate for the next day.
Because of the improved cognitive functions of running, the exercise can also help your mind calm down when it’s time to rest. When your mind is able to stop racing, your body can sink into sleep.
Is It OK To Run Every Day?
Potential Risks of Running Every Day
While he does back up the benefits of running mentioned above, he also points out:
“Vigorous running on a daily basis, however, is detrimental to health as it invites more opportunities for you to incur overuse injuries such as splints, stress fractures, extreme muscle cramps, and many other consequences.”
So according to Nicholas, here are the 3 potential risks of running or jogging every day:
1. More Risk of Injuries
Those include . . .
- Shin splints
- Extreme muscle cramps
2. Running Every Day Can Cause You To Look Older!
Nicholas says, “Moreover, daily high impact running also deters the skin — the stress of overly straining your physical body can promote premature aging in the form of highlighted fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin, and even breakouts due to sweat-clogged pores.”
3. Daily Running Can Take Away from Much-Needed Rest Days
“Running every day can also mean that you are restricting yourself from much-needed downtime or rest days. Our bodies are not a machine and the muscles and other organs we use every day to function and perform our daily tasks need ample time for recovery.”
You might think that taking rest days means you’re losing opportunities to build strength and endurance.
But when you run, your muscles experience microscopic tears that need the chance to heal in order to get stronger. If you’re consistently overtraining, you deny them the opportunity for recovery.
When you give them that chance, you’ll find that getting back to your run a day or two later will be much easier and more productive.
What Physical Therapist Niraj Vora Has to Say
Another expert, Niraj Vora, physical therapist and co-founder of The Stride Shop has added more information. He treats runners specifically in his physical therapy clinic, so he has plenty first-hand experience.
First, he first points out some additional benefits of running every day:
“The new world we’re in has brought attention to a variety of challenges for runners, many of which call for running a large number of days in a row. For some, the benefits of running every day can be numerous.
It can be motivating to attack a new goal, it can create a more durable body to do a run-streak for a short period of time, and it can improve your fitness when done correctly.
On the flip side, running every day can also lead to injuries for individuals who are not prepared to take on this much running! The risks of running every day can be mild (cramps, fatigue, soreness) or can be severe (acute joint pain, stress fracture).”
He points out that running every day works for some runners but not others. Here are the most important factors to consider:
“Runners have to build tolerance to the running over time, so experience is crucial.
Experienced runners will generally be more capable of running every day for a period of time than new runners. An individual that has been running 2-3 times per week for several years has created adaptations to their tendons, muscles, and joints that new runners have not – and this makes them more likely to successfully run every day.
We should also examine a runner’s injury history. If someone has experienced multiple injuries as a result of their running, it is unlikely that running every day is a good idea! On the other hand, someone who has been relatively healthy while running consistently may be a good candidate to do a run-streak to mix it up.
Lastly, a runner should consider the goal of running every day. Some runners find that their fitness peaks when they run every day for some period of time. Others may find that the challenge of running every day creates mental toughness that serves them well when they race.
But some individuals find it extremely fatiguing. Some become more prone to illness because their immune system doesn’t hold up to the stress that is created by running every day in addition to working and taking care of a family. Running every day should only be taken on when someone’s life will allow them to take on that stress and still thrive!
Whether it is short distances, long distances, sprinting, or jogging – doing any of these every day is potentially harmful if the individual is not aware of their capabilities.”
So Should You Run Every Day?
If you’re thinking of building your habit to run every day, consider your tolerance to handling the stress of it.
Running several times per week can relieve excess stress, but running every day can actually take your mind in the other direction.
No matter what, you should always back up your running with a healthy diet and plenty of sleep.
Vora adds one last piece of information about the potential risk of injury for running every day:
“A study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2014 determined that endurance athletes who have less than 2 weekly rest days have a 5.2 times higher risk of injury than those who have more. So, it is important that we look at the big picture of a runner rather than thinking that more is always better!”
If you feel that you’re not ready to start running every day but still want an exciting new challenge, it might be better to tackle your first half marathon training plan. Download our free half marathon Bootcamp to get started.
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