Numerous citations have in the past pointed the importance of running for older people. Running contributes to a healthy aging where your body experiences fewer age-related health issues. If you’re a beginner, there’re some important considerations you should make in order to run safely.
If you want to reap the health benefits of running, then this article has all the answers. You’ll learn the benefits of running, how to run safely and whether you should actually run.
Related: Best Running Shoes for Older Runners
Is Running Safe for Seniors?
It’s common for people to get some sort of dissuasion from family and friends about the dangers of running at old age. You may be warned about knee problems, broken bones and so on. But this is all myth!
Well, running is safe at older age whether you have been an active runner or a beginner. However, you won’t be able to run like before or like younger runners due to the physical changes that occur in your body at old age.
Changes such as reduced muscle elasticity, declining aerobic capacity, slow metabolism and so on typically hinder your running performance at old age. That means older runners should adhere to certain precautions to get the best out of running and avoid undesirable complications.
Benefits of Running for Seniors
Running benefits everyone regardless of age. So, if your physical and medical conditions allow you to run, then you should be already in it. Below are some of the benefits of running.
- Older runners have greater bone density which makes their bones stronger. As such, they are not susceptible to disabilities. In fact running helps in preventing Osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become porous and hence weak. Women are at a greater risk of suffering Osteoporosis because their bones are smaller and lighter than those of men.
- Running engages the muscles around your core hence making them stronger and effective. A stronger core results in good posture, stability and balance. Thus, you’re able to perform your daily activities without strain.
- Running results in a healthy heart and effective cardiovascular system. When running, your heart rate increases so as to supply your body with more blood. When this is done over and over again, your heart becomes stronger and it’s able to pump blood effectively.
- The alternating expansion and contraction of the blood vessels during running is what makes them more flexible and resilient. This helps in preventing heart disease.
- Running enhances lung performance such that breathing becomes easier and effective. This prevents breathing complications or shortness of breath during strenuous activities like taking the stairs.
- Running helps you burn body calories thus minimizing cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure.
Running Tips for Seniors
Know Your Physical Condition
If you’ve not been an active runner, then you need medical clearance to ascertain whether you’re actually fit to run.
Normally, your physician would want to know something about any existing medical conditions including previous physical injuries. From this information, your doctor may give you a go ahead or ask you to wait until you get back to good health.
You doctor will also perform an exercise stress assessment to ascertain whether you have cardiovascular issues. This is especially necessary if you are presently a smoker or you quit smoking a while ago. If your family has had a history of heart disease then a stress test during exercise is necessary.
Choose Appropriate Running Shoes
A physical extermination by your doctor or podiatrist can give insight regarding the most ideal running shoes for you. Notably, running shoes for older runners need to have generous underfoot cushioning to offer adequate impact buffer.
In addition, your shoes should offer the ideal support and stability to keep you comfortable and run with minimal injuries.
Plus they should provide secure grip to ensure you don’t slide or skid.
As you age, your muscles lose their mass hence becoming weak. Therefore, you need to build your strength before taking up a more challenging task like running.
Strength building helps in preparing your joints and muscle to endure greater impacts during running. Plus it improves lungs to enable effective breathing during running.
Typical strength training exercises may include jogging with gradual increase in your pace as you start getting used to the activity. Short up and down hill runs can help build leg muscle strength and increase lung capacity.
You can strengthen your core and legs with squats, push-ups, planks and lunges.
Appropriate Running Techniques
- Arm and Hand Position
A 90° arm swing is the most comfortable and efficient for optimal propulsion. Elbows should be kept close to your body sides so that your arms are free to swing. Also ensure that your hands are relaxed to avoid wasting the energy that you need during running.
- Avoid Forefoot and Heel Striking
Forefoot and heel striking are potential avenues for injuries when running. This does not however mean that your landing is incorrect. So, if you can’t change the way your feet lands, then you should embark on finding appropriate running shoes.
A podiatrist can help you determine the most ideal running shoes for you type of footstrike
- Foot Pronation Matters
Ensure your shoes give you the most desirable support depending on your type of foot pronation.
- Maintain Appropriate Posture
A straight and relaxed posture goes a long way to prevent a fatigue and injuries at the end of your running. So, ensure your back is straight, shoulders are level and the head is up. Try to maintain the posture throughout your running to avoid fatigue on your shoulders, neck and lower back.
- Take Rest
Your body needs time for recovery in between your running periods. Giving overstretched muscles and joints a break puts you in better form for the next running session. Of course the amount of rest required will depend on your experience.
Beginner runners need more rest because their bodies have not been used to running. They can however, reduce the resting time as their bodies get accustomed to running. If you’re training for marathon, you can run for four days and cross train for one or two days every week.
- Include Cross Training
Alternating cross training with your running program provides a means for building on your strength and enhancing your muscle range of motion. Since running does not engage all your muscles, cross training leads to full-body workout.
One or two days of cross training goes a long way to you keep you fit and ready for the next run. Typical cross training for seniors may include cardio exercises, swimming, aerobic dance, walking and so on.
- Good Diet
Running becomes even more beneficial when you combine it good nutrition. With advancement in age, your body loses its antioxidant capacity. So, a diet rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables is recommended for older runners. Such foods exhibit anti-aging properties and are associated with improved performance.
Running keeps old-age complications at bay. That’s why older people who are active runners have less complains about age-related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease.
Good news is that you can begin running at older age and still enjoy the benefits of running fitness. Plus running is absolutely safe if you follow proper techniques and programs for senior runners.