On a beautiful Saturday morning in the springtime, they are everywhere. No, not birds, not lady bugs, not even farmer’s markets. Joggers. Runners. People who get up in the morning, strap on their running shoes, and head out for a jog. These same people might run a 10K on Thanksgiving morning, or dodge zombies around Halloween. You’ve seen them so often that maybe you start to wonder: should I start jogging?

The benefits of running are numerous and well-documented.

Combat aging and overall improve overall health

Running is a high-impact exercise that prevents muscle and bone loss. Overall, it’s a great exercise for anti-aging that increases blood and oxygen flow in the body. This movement keeps internal organs healthy and properly functioning. Running also reduces the risk of blood clots and encourages you to use the 50% of your lungs that generally go unused. If that weren’t enough, running raises the level of HDL (good) cholesterol.

Fight disease

Running is one of the main prescriptions for preventing or treating chronic disease like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The increased flow of blood and oxygen through the body improves the elasticity of the arteries, working to ward off hypertension. High-impact exercise is crucial to ward off the effects of osteoporosis, and running is an excellent, efficient form of high-impact exercise.

Improve mood and manage stress

Hitting the pavement is an excellent way to clear your mind, boost your mood, and relieve stress. Exercise in general is a research-proven way to deal with mood and depressive disorders, but running seems to be particularly effective.

With all of these benefits, what’s stopping you from starting a running program? Chances are good that you aren’t getting nearly your recommended amount of daily exercise, and chances are also good that you have plenty of reasons why you aren’t exercising. No time, no money for a gym membership or fancy clothes or equipment, no one to watch the kids. These are all valid reasons, but running has an answer for each excuse, an answer that can help get you motivated to start your own running program.

No time

Everyone seems to be busier than ever. In fact, it’s almost a badge of courage these days to be busier than everyone you know. This level of activity is unsustainable, health-wise. Busy people tend to be more stressed, and stress can be lethal. If you aim for a 30-minute jog every day, you will feel more energized and ready to take on your busy schedule. In addition, you will sleep better, feel less anxiety, and improve your chances of living to 100.

Some ways to slip 30 minutes of running into your day are:

  • Divide your run. Do 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes after work. It’s not exactly the same as a sustained 30-minute period of exercise, but it will work.
  • Run at lunch. Take half of your hour lunch break and go for a jog.
  • Run the dog. Your dog may be looking a little chunky this time of year. Instead of a walk, take him on a slow jog. You can alternate running and fast walking if he can’t handle it (and if you can’t, you can blame it on the dog).
  • Involve the family. Chances are good your kids aren’t getting their recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise either. Have them join you, running, bike, skipping, scooter-ing: anything to get them moving.

If all else fails, turn off the TV. The average adult in the U.S. watches five hours of television daily. Imagine what you could accomplish if you watched half that amount. Even a 30-minute run would be possible!

No gear

One of the best things about running is that practically zero specialized gear is necessary. The only thing you really need is a quality pair of running shoes. There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for shoes.

You should:

  • Go to the pros. Visit a specialty running store when you start shopping for shoes. You are not required to buy anything, but they will analyze your stride and foot strike and advise you on the best shoes for your foot. Take whatever shoes you have been wearing for exercise with you.
  • Buy the best you can afford. After you get sized for shoes and try on a few different kinds, feel free to shop around and get the best price, but buy the best shoe you can afford. Running places tremendous strain on the feet and the knees, and your running shoes are there to support you.
  • Ignore fashion. Often, fashionable running shoes are really not designed for running. They may look good on your feet, but after a mile or two your knees might be screaming for mercy. Buy the best shoes for the job, regardless of what they look like.
  • Rotate your shoes. Running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles, sooner if there is wear evident in the sole. For the casual runner, that’s once a year or so. This is another good reason to keep track of your miles in a training app for runners.

Other than shoes, runners don’t require any specialized gear. In the winter, undershirts that wick sweat are nice to have, but you can wear your regular gloves and hats. As you get into running you might find you want more specialized clothing, but to start, focus on the shoes.

No one to watch the kids

If the kids are old enough to go to school, they are definitely old enough to join you on your run, even riding a bike if they are able. If you prefer to treat your daily jog as time alone, try to work out a swap with another local family (trade kids for an afternoon), get a run in before the kids get home, or run during the day.

Because running is high-impact exercise, it can be difficult for people who have painful joints. Talk to your doctor about your options before starting (or increasing the intensity of) a running program. Speed-walking may be more your style. Keep in mind that running need not be fast, and you don’t need to start off with 30 minutes a day. Run in one-minute intervals with several minutes of walking to build up stamina. Start wherever you are and build from there.

Tell us: what would get you out for a run every day?

Image by John Loo via Flickr

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