Can You Start Running at 40? Absolutely! Here’s How

Exercise is important at any age. Some people only think of exercise for weight loss, but it’s actually great for your overall health and quality of life. The benefits of running include improved immune system function, stronger bones and muscles, improved mood, and a better night’s rest. What’s not to love?

But for people over 40, regular physical activity 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.

Happy running middle age couple

Running is a great way to exercise at any age, and makes a great addition to your current routine; it’s an excellent choice for cross-training.

However, it’s also very easy to hurt yourself if you start running without a training plan. Whether you’re looking to start running again after a few years off or start running for the first time, these running tips can protect older runners from injury.

With Age Comes Challenges

You may be feeling older – maybe your joints are stiff or you get winded more easily – but if your heart and lungs are in proper order, it’s never too late to start running or strength training. That said, getting older does present unique challenges that you should be prepared for.

As you creep into middle age, 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.

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

A lot of new runners make the same mistake: they go too fast. You’re not going to go from couch to 5K overnight. And overuse injuries are no joke.

Ease into your new running routine with walking. What? Yes, brisk walking starts conditioning your heart and lungs for running and gets your muscles, tendons, and ligaments loosened up.

Once walking briskly for 30 minutes a day becomes comfortable, you’re ready for a run/walk routine. There are running workout apps and websites that can help you determine the best walking/running program, but the basics are the same. You alternate running and walking to your comfort level, increasing running over time.

The Talk Test

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

It’s very simple, you should be able to hold a conversation with someone while performing your cardio exercise. If you can only huff and puff about 2 words at a time, you should slow your pace.

Choose Proper Running Shoes

We can’t overstate the importance of a good pair of running shoes. For runners over 40, you want shoes with stiff soles for maximum protection. The associates at your shoe or running store can help or you can pick up a shoe and try bending the middle yourself.

Good Running Shoes

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.

Replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles, or when they start to look worn out. Wearing proper shoes will help keep you injury-free.

5 Start Running Tips

Whether you’re 20 or trying to start running at 60, there are tips all beginner runners can benefit from.

1. Warm Up

No matter how long you’ve been running, if you don’t want to end up with an injury, you have to warm up first. Do some light walking and stretching to get your quads, hamstrings, and tendons loosened up and ready to run.

This is also a great time to do some glute and core exercises. These muscles are key as they support the rest of your body.

2. Cool Down

Cooling down keeps your blood flowing and allows your heart rate and breathing to wind down naturally. Cool down after a run with 5-10 minutes of jogging or walking.

3. Get Support!

Whether it’s a friend, a personal trainer, or a local running club, having a support network not only makes running more fun (everything’s more fun with friends!) it helps keep you motivated. Having a running coach or more experienced runners you can turn to can also help prevent injury or solve problems you may run into.

4. Bring Music

If you’re running at night or in a secluded area, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. But on a well-populated trail or with a group, something to listen to can help break up the monotony if running is getting boring. An interesting podcast or a well-curated playlist can keep your mood up and make running more fun.

5. Remember to Rest

You can’t push yourself every day. Taking two to three rest days a week allows your body to recover and prevents injury.

Out of breath woman

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.

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for your foot and ankle care?

Whether you need to find proper footwear, treat an injury, or get advice on proper foot care, we’re here to help. Our podiatrists offer the most advanced podiatry care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists and leaders in researching, diagnosing, and treating all foot and ankle conditions and common injuries.

For a consultation please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

Our podiatrists take patients’ safety seriously. Our podiatry facility’s Covid-19 patient safety procedures exceed all the CDC’s coronavirus pandemic recommendations. Masks are always required in our institutes.

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. Our foot doctors are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake Village, Granada Hills, and Valencia.

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