How to start running for fitness
Running is a great way to get the exercise your body needs to reduce your risk of disease.
Running in your neighborhood is a great way to pack in the daily exercise your body needs to boost your immune system and reduce your cancer risk — and if you get going now, you could make it a habit for the long run.
Running can help you shed pounds, strengthen bones and reduce stress. And we all need that right now.
No matter what your fitness level, get inspired to go outside and run. Hit the pavement with MD Anderson Cancer Center's step-by-step training guide.
Start off slow
If it’s been a while since you last ran, start with brisk walks three times a week. A brisk walk done right should allow you to talk but not sing. If you have a health condition, talk to your doctor to make sure you are fit enough to start running.
Kick it up a notch
When those brisk walks no longer leave you out of breath, start 30-minute running workouts, three times a week.
“While it’s tempting to just go out and run as fast as you can for as long as you can, you’ll ultimately run longer, feel stronger and stay injury-free if you start by adding short bouts of running to your regular walks and gradually increasing the amount of time that you spend running,” says Whittney Thoman, a senior exercise physiologist at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.
Try running for two minutes, then walk for four. Move at a comfortable pace but increase the intensity as it gets easier.
Next, run three minutes and walk for two. Then run four minutes, and walk for two. Continue this pattern until you can run comfortably for 30 minutes without a break.
“The main goal is to get fit without getting hurt,” Thoman says. “Going too far, too fast, before your body is ready is one of the most common causes of injuries like shin splints, IT band syndrome and runner’s knee.”
Mix it up
After you’ve perfected your 30-minute run, increase your workouts to five times a week. But alternate running with walking and cross-training to work different muscles, condition your body and prevent injury.
To avoid burnout, rest two days a week. Once you find your stride, keep pushing to meet your fitness goals and enjoy the benefits of running.
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This article was last updated on April 15, 2020.