Over Age 40? It’s Never Too Late to Start Running. How to Safely Chase Good Health While Hitting the Pavement

At any age, adding exercise to your routine is one of the surest ways to improve overall health and quality of life. Exercise has been proven to improve functioning in your immune system, help you keep your weight under control, and help you get a better night’s rest. What’s not to love?

But for people over 40, regular exercise is more important than ever. It can slash your risk for diabetes and heart disease, and the increased vascular activity can actually stave off cognitive impairment, keeping your brain sharp.

Even if you don’t regularly exercise, you might want to try running. You can also add it to your current routine: it’s an excellent choice for cross training. Running is easy to learn, requires minimal equipment, and you can do it nearly anywhere, which makes it popular with vacationers and people who travel often for work.

Starting Running in your 40s, university foot and ankle institute

With Age Come Challenges

You may be looking and feeling older every year, but if your heart and lungs are in proper order, it’s never too late to train. That said, getting older does present unique challenges that you should be prepared for.

As you creep into your older years, the collagen in your joints starts to deteriorate. Soft connective tissues lose some of their flexibility and become more susceptible to tears. Your bones will tend to become more brittle, making fractures more likely.

If you’re concerned about your joint or skeletal health, visit your orthopedist for an evaluation. For some, running may be off the table. But even if that’s the case, walking puts less stress on your body and can be just as beneficial.

Additionally, around age 30, our bodies begin to lose a small percentage of muscle mass each year. Exercise can’t stop this process, but it can slow it down considerably. Put in the work now for better mobility and more independence later in life.

Start Slow

If you’re new to regular exercise, you don’t need to start training for marathons in order to “make up for lost time.” Ease into your new routine. Your heart hasn’t been conditioned for long, sustained periods of stress, and that kind of strain can actually increase your risk of a heart attack.

Try walking briskly for 30 minutes each day, six days out of the week. You should be breathing heavy, but not gasping for air. Once this becomes comfortable, up the ante by alternating between brisk walking and running for 1-2 minutes at a time. You can increase the amount of time you spend running to your comfort level.

This method will add a controlled amount of stress to your joints, muscles, and cardiovascular system – just enough to help them grow stronger. You want to avoid overstressing them, which could cause a stress injury.

The Talk Test

To help you gauge whether you’re pushing yourself too hard, use the “talk test.”

Running talk test, University Foot and Ankle Institute

The “talk test” is a simple test. Essentially, you should be able to hold a conversation with someone while you’re performing your cardio exercise. If you can only huff and puff about 2 words at a time, you should slow your pace.

Additionally, the talk test is a great excuse to invite a buddy to run along with you. Running with a partner can be a lot more fun than running alone, and the two of you can hold each other accountable for your daily commitment.

Purchase Footwear for “Maximum Protection”

Choosing the right running shoes is instrumental in avoiding injury. Runners over age 40 should go for maximum protection when picking their footwear. Look for shoes with stiff soles. You can ask an associate for help finding the sturdier models, or you can pick up the shoe and try bending the middle yourself.

Proper orthotic insoles are also a great choice for runners of all ages. “Insoles can offer more arch support, correct overpronation and underpronation, and reduce unwanted mobility,” says Dr. Bob Baravarian of the University Foot and Ankle Institute. “They also provide extra cushioning and help distribute your body weight more evenly across the bottom of your foot.” You can purchase insoles at your local pharmacy or have your foot and ankle specialist fit you for a custom pair.

When do i replace my running shoes?

Replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles, or when they start to look worn out. When running shoes get too old, they can no longer adequately support your foot and may leave you vulnerable to injury.

Listen to Your Body

When you introduce running into your life, you might be pleasantly surprised to experience a little boost in your mood. Aerobic exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which can help put a spring in your step for a few hours afterward. Experienced runners call this the “runner’s high.”

Runner’s high can be addictive, which is great for your motivation to keep running. But, beware of overdoing it, especially early on. If you’re feeling pain in specific joints or muscles, that could be a sign that you’ve suffered an injury. Do not attempt to “run through the pain”! Get some rest and switch to walking or biking in the meantime. Call your foot and ankle specialist if you have any questions about aches and pains.

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