Because running is high impact and tough on your muscles and joints, it can lead to injury if you don’t adapt your training routine to suit your body’s needs, according to Stewart Sanders, physical therapist and director of Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Running Clinic.
“As we age, we become more susceptible to aches and pains from movement,” he says. “Our tissues become less resilient and we need to appreciate that as we exercise. Having the appropriate amount of rest is important in order to recover from activity.”
The aging process includes the loss of muscle mass and nerve connection to muscles, which can affect muscle strength, balance and recovery after activity. Losing muscle mass decreases the ability to store glycogen, which can also affect recovery. Your vascular system may become less efficient at delivering the nutrients required for recovery, which may have an impact on your ability to bounce back.
“It is also important to stay hydrated and have a good diet to support your activities,” Sanders says.
“Running frequently is OK — and actually good for you — if the bouts of running aren’t intense and you allow for rest,” Sanders says. “Jogging for 30 to 45 minutes multiple times a week can have good health benefits.”
Sanders shares the following five tips for running as you age:
- Make a running plan. Having a plan and establishing goals is a good way to start any exercise program.
- Start slow. You may want to start slow and begin with a walk or jog program, where you initially spend more time walking and then gradually increase periods of running over a six- to eight-week period.
- Run on a level surface. Focus initially with running on level surfaces to lower the risk of injury or losing balance.
- Add in low-impact exercise. You may want to include other low-impact exercises to supplement activity and take stress off of joints (swimming, cycling, etc.).
- Stay strong. Strength training is important to keep muscles and bones strong to support your musculoskeletal frame.