Running is the cheapest and most effective form exercise that there is. It burns more calories than any other mainstream form of exercise and it can be done anywhere at any time. The NHS recommends that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to stay healthy, and running is an excellent time efficient way to fit this into a busy schedule.
Benefits of running
Like other forms of cardiovascular exercise, regular running help maintain a healthy weight and reduces your risk of developing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
Running also helps improve your physical strength, stamina and mental health. Many people refer to running as their ‘drug’, as the exercise provides the body with a natural high that boosts your mood. People who suffer from anxiety and depression can reap many benefits from even the minimum recommended amount of exercise.
How to get started
The only thing you need to start running is a good pair of running trainers. There are many types of trainers on the high-street so you should speak to a sports retailer to find the right pair for your foot type and budget to avoid injury. It is also advised that you replace running shoes every 300 miles as the shock absorbers can be worn down over time.
NHS Choices recommend that if you are new to running you should ease in slowly. Make sure that you always warm up for 5 minutes before doing any running, which can include activities such as power walking, marching on the spot or climbing stairs.
During your first session, you should try alternating between running and walking to build up your stamina, and then gradually increase the amount that you run over time and reducing the recovery periods. By getting out at least twice a week your running will gradually improve as your body adapts to the training.
Try running with a partner of a similar level of ability to yourself for motivation. Not only will this make the activity more social and enjoyable, but you can push each other to go further and ultimately keep you committed to running regularly.
Always include a cool down period after you have been running to avoid injury. This should consist of 5 to 10 minutes of basic stretches.
The NHS offer a great running scheme for beginners called Couch to 5K, which provides a well-structured 9 week plan to get you in shape. Presented as a series of podcasts to listen to as you run, they start small and gradually build up your ability over the 9 weeks in a safe and healthy way.
To avoid injury and to allow your muscles time to recover, it is recommended that you don’t run every day. Running every other day is just as beneficial for your health and you are far less likely to cause yourself injury this way. Likewise, if you have suffered an injury or feel pain in any of your joints, you should not persist with running but consult your GP and maybe switch to other lower-impact forms of exercise.
However, running is generally considered to be a safe form of cardiovascular exercise. If you run correctly with the correct posture this also greatly reduces your chance of injury. The NHS recommends running with your head facing straight ahead, with your shoulders relaxed back and down. Keep your hands relaxed and your arms at 90 degree angles to your body as you run, swinging them backwards and forwards to help propel you on.
You should also aim to keep your hips stable when running to avoid lower back pain, and to land with a slight bend of the knee to absorb some of the shock. When you land, you should also aim to land as lightly as you can on the middle of your foot to reduce the impact and stress on your body.
Finally, you should remember to breathe rhythmically and deeply as you run and to avoid short shallow breaths. This will allow more oxygen to enter your blood so you can keep running for longer and more efficiently.