You do not need to run every day of the week to benefit your health. Running just a few minutes each day may be good for you. Research shows it may even extend your life.
Running every day may have some health benefits. Studies show that running just 5 to 10 minutes each day at a moderate pace may help reduce your risk of death from heart attacks, strokes, and other common diseases. But the same research also shows that these benefits top off at 4.5 hours a week, meaning there’s no need to run for hours each day. Running is a high-impact exercise and overtraining can lead to injuries such as stress fractures and shin splints.
How many days it’s safe for you to run each week depends on your goals and physical fitness levels. Scheduling days for cross training, strength training, and rest should be part of your training plan. They may make you a stronger and healthier runner overall.
Read on to learn more about the benefits and risks of daily running, plus tips for adding a daily run to your routine.
Running every day may have benefits for your health. Studies show that the benefits of running for just 5 to 10 minutes at a moderate pace (6.0 miles per hour) each day may include:
- reduced risk of death from heart attack or stroke
- reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- lower risk of developing cancer
- lower risk of developing neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
While these benefits can be achieved by a minimal amount of daily running, a group of Dutch researchers recommends running 2.5 hours per week, or 30 minutes, five days a week to enjoy maximum longevity benefits.
Other benefits of running may include improved sleep and mood. Researchers in one study observed a group of healthy adolescents who ran for 30 minutes at a moderate-intensity pace every morning for three weeks. Their sleep, mood, and concentration ability during the day tested better than a control group of non-runners.
You may be able to experience these same benefits from 30 minutes of other daily activity, too, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or yoga.
Running every day may increase your risk for an overuse injury. Overuse injuries result from taking on too much physical activity, too fast, and not allowing the body to adjust. Or they can result from technique errors, such as running with poor form and overloading certain muscles.
To avoid an overuse injury:
- Make sure you have appropriate running shoes and change out your shoes often.
- Gradually increase the number of miles you run each week.
- Mix up running days with cross training, such as cycling or swimming.
- Warm up before you run and stretch after.
- Run with proper form.
If you experience a running injury, stop training and see your doctor for a recovery plan. RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) may help with your recovery.
Cross training, or training with another form of exercise other than running, may be beneficial to runners. Some potential benefits include:
- reduces risk of injury
- engages different muscle groups
- increases flexibility and core strength
- aids injury recovery without compromising fitness level
- offers variety
If running is your main form of exercise, consider cross training one to two times a week with cycling, swimming, yoga, or Pilates to experience the above benefits. You should consider adding anaerobic activities such as strength training and weights into your routine one to two times a week.
The only items you need to start running every day include a pair or two of running shoes and socks. You may want to alternate between two pairs of shoes in case one gets wet or muddy.
You’ll also need sweat-resistant running clothes like shorts and T-shirts. If you run at night or in the early morning, get a reflective vest or light for safety.
How often you run each week should depend on your goals and physical fitness level. For example, if you’re a beginner, you don’t need to start out running every day because you’re at a higher risk of burnout or injury. Instead, start by running every other day for 20–30 minutes. Consider trying a couch-to-5K program to start.
Fitting in enough time to run daily or several times a week can be a challenge. Try to run first thing in the morning before your day gets busy. Or, run during your lunch break. Look for run clubs and running meetups in your area for support and motivation. Do short runs during the week, and save your long runs for the weekends when you have more time.
If you’re an experienced runner and plan to run every day, it’s important to schedule your weekly training with plenty of variety. For example, one day a week you could do a long run at your goal race pace. You could spend another day on speed work. One to two days could be short, recovery runs. The other days can be spent doing a hill workout, where you run up an incline repetitively to build up strength in your legs. You also can run or jog in a pool for an active recovery.
Sample 10K training plan
This is an example of a sample 10K training plan for an advanced runner:
|30-minute tempo run
|6 x 400 meters at mile pace
|Rest or 3-mile run
- Wear bright colors.
- Look for popular or well-lit trails or running paths.
- Let someone know where you are.
Be sure to stick to well-lit, populated areas when you run. Look for popular running paths and trails in your area. Wear bright colors and a reflective vest if you run at night or early in the morning. You can also run laps on a track or do your speed work there. Watch out for branches and sticks when running on trails. They’re a tripping hazard and can cause an injury.
You don’t always need to stretch before you run. You can walk the first few minutes or jog at a slower pace to warm up your muscles. After your run, always stretch out.
Running just a few minutes each day may benefit your health. Research shows it may even extend your life. But do you need to run every day of the week to benefit? No.
Remember, even elite runners stay injury free by scheduling in rest days and cross training days. Try lower-impact activities like swimming and cycling on cross- training days to recover and give your hard-working running muscles a break.
If you aren’t sure how often to exercise or whether it’s safe for you to start running, talk to your doctor. They can recommend a physical fitness program that’s appropriate for your age and fitness level.