When giving running advice to beginners, one of the questions they’re going to ask is how many miles to run. Truthfully, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, all runners, or those considering taking up running, ask themselves, “How many miles a week should I run?” This response is surprisingly low, according to new research, at least if you want to get the most health benefits from running. Weak how? The number even surprised me!
How many kilometers a week should I run to improve my health?
Based on a review of studies, just eight to nine miles a week can have noticeable health benefits. You have read correctly. Running just a mile a day five or six days a week, or even two miles every other day, can dramatically improve your health. That’s less than an hour a week for most people, even beginners, at their cardio.
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A study published in PubMed included at least 500 runners and a five-year follow-up to analyze the relationship between running and health, focusing on cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. What the researchers found was shocking in a good way. Runners who ran five to 10 miles a week weighed less and had a lower risk of obesity than people who ran less than five miles a week or not at all. And that’s not all. Non-runners were more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, and some forms of cancer. That means this little activity can naturally lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and more.
What’s more, the data suggests there may even be a maximum number of miles, as vigorous running for more than an hour a day may slightly increase the risk of heart problems, as well as running-related injuries and disabilities. If you’re an avid runner and now wondering if you’re running too much, don’t change your routine just yet. If you want to be faster and more competitive, you can keep increasing your mileage. The key is knowing your body and monitoring your health and keeping an eye out for common running-related injuries as well as overtraining.
For example, IT band syndrome is a common injury in runners that results from overtraining and poor form. By cutting back on your miles and getting more rest, and focusing on form instead of distance, you can heal and prevent that knee pain, which can really interfere with your workouts. If you start to develop heart complications or are frequently injured, it’s a sign that you may be running too much, and this new research clearly shows that you can still achieve remarkable health benefits by cutting back on your mileage.
The other part of the current equation
While this information is good news, there is no question that running alone will not bring you optimal health. Why ? Cardiovascular exercises like running do not allow your body to burn fat or build muscle through resistance training.
This is because while cardio is great for your heart and burns calories during exercise, the fat-burning benefits stop at the end of your run. Conversely, when you build lean muscle, you continue to burn calories and fat throughout the day, even if you don’t exercise. This is called the afterburn effect.
A study published in the Journal of Exercise Science showed that the afterburn effect is associated with increased metabolism due to the thermic effect of activity, regardless of your current fitness level. Some experts believe this can lead to about a 10% increase in daily calorie burn after just 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise. To activate the afterburn effect by increasing your muscle mass, you can incorporate shorter and more intense workouts, such as HIIT sessions and burst training, which is the #1 exercise to burn abdominal fat quickly.
Final Thoughts on Running
When considering the question “How many kilometers per week should I run?” It’s truly amazing to hear that just running five or nine miles a week can bring an incredible number of health benefits. But maybe it shouldn’t be so shocking.
With everything we know today about the need to rest between workouts, muscle recovery, and not overdoing it, the “less is more” movement is taking hold. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean exercising less. It’s about working certain muscle groups for less time and doing shorter workouts, instead of changing your routine to incorporate all types of exercise. This means a mix of cardio/aerobic exercise and resistance exercise and, of course, rest.
Add to that a healthy diet, and you’re on your way to being as fit as possible. So if you’re thinking about running or worried about not racking up the miles, remember this study: Starting at eight or nine miles, you can make a real difference in your appearance and well-being.
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