by Brian McGovern in Start Running

Running for Senior Citizens

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Just because you’re over age 65 doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of being a runner.  Perhaps it’s been years since you’ve set foot on a track and you think that now that you’re a senior citizen your race has been run.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If you’re nervous about getting into running at advanced age there are a number of steps you can take, but sometimes taking the first step is the toughest part of the journey.

Before you begin any type of new physical activity like running it always makes sense to check in with your doctor or a complete medical examination. This is especially true in your senior years. Assuming that your physician gives you a clean bill of health it’s time to ease your way from being a sedentary senior to a full-fledged runner.

Walk before your run

They say that a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step; they also say you have to walk before you run, and we’d have to agree. If you push your body too hard too fast you’ll end up with injuries that could sideline you.  Trying to do too much too soon is counterproductive.

But don’t think that walking is a waste of time.  Just lacing up the sneakers and walking around your neighborhood can give you some amazing results.  Folks who walk regularly have stronger bones.  Walking is one of the best ways you can fight osteoporosis.  Those without exercise become weak but those that are exposed to some physical stress gain calcium and greater bone density.

On your way to becoming a runner through gradually increasing the distance and speed of your walking, your heart and lungs will respond by giving you more energy.  Brisk walking and running are great ways to build cardiovascular health.  Mostly people who walk regularly have lower blood pressure and lower levels of bad cholesterol.  Instead of becoming dependent upon expensive pharmaceuticals with potentially dangerous side effects you can have a stronger cardiovascular system which will dramatically reduce your risks of stroke and heart attack.

Find a running buddy

A great way to get into running is with a buddy. If you can schedule some time to do regular walking with a friend you may find you’re more likely to stick to your exercise program.  Also, people who are older may benefit from the added level of safety that jogging or running with someone else brings. Some people report feeling bored going on long walks so having a friend along with you can make the experience more enjoyable for you. If you’re more of a loner and get yourself some headphones and listen to some great music and you’ll find that time flies as you get healthier and stronger.

It’s important not to over analyze things and instead take action

Yes, you’ll need a good pair of running shoes but don’t let that delay you from getting active. Sure, mapping out a detailed work out and running program might work for some people but it’s much more effective to start doing something adequately rather than waiting to do something perfectly.  Something is better than nothing.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely.  Running can help you with a longer and healthier life.  Did you know that runners have a lower chance of suffering from clinical depression than physically inactive people?  As you run and improve the strength of your heart and the viscosity of your blood your brain benefits from improved circulation.  People who are physically active can ward off cognitive declines too.

Runners sleep better. While many older adults experience poor sleep cycles, people who run tend to sleep sounder and wake up more refreshed than their lethargic counterparts.  Again we see running is a wonderful, natural substitute for potentially harmful pharmaceuticals.  If you hit the track, you’ll hit the sack without sleeping pills or counting sheep.

Many senior citizens experience severe injuries because of all related accidents, any of which are the result of poor balance.  By sticking to a reasonable running schedule you’ll reduce your chances of a fall because your muscles and bones will be stronger and your balance will be better as well.

Oh, and did we mention it’s fun?

You got to stick with it but eventually you’ll find that nothing else quite like running makes you feel as alive and well.  Plus, when you’re out and about running around your neighborhood it’s a great way to meet other like-minded people, make new friends and stay connected to your community.

A simple way to get on track to becoming a runner is to simply walk 10 minutes a day until you feel ready to go further and faster.  Increase your time out to 15 and then 20 minutes.  Try to cover more territory every time you’re out on the road.  Move up to brisk walking and finally jogging and running when your body feels like it’s ready for the challenge. Of course good health is not limited to running and you can get a lot of benefits from biking, tennis, dancing, aerobics surfing and canoeing.

Running every day may not be practical for you but tried to go out at least three days a week. The more you can do, the better you’ll feel. Mortality rates amongst retired men were dramatically different based upon activity levels.  Men who walked 1 mile a day had twice the mortality rate of men who walked 2 miles or more a day. By becoming serious about your health and getting a regular challenging run several times a week you can reduce the odds of you getting colon or breast cancer.

Some people were “born to run,” and others require more variety in their exercise routines. When the weather is bad you can jump on the treadmill, do some aerobics, jump rope or get to an indoor pool and do some laps.   There is no “one way” of becoming healthier. Choose what works for you and stick to it.

The Dangers of Running for Older Adults

As long as you don’t have any pre-existing conditions and you take reasonable care not to over extend yourself, running is generally safe for everyone.  When you weigh the health benefits you get from being in shape against the possibility of getting a running injury will see that being active is the better choice. Sitting around because you’re afraid of getting hurt is definitely not good for your health.

You can minimize the risks of injury by consulting your physician and working with a certified personal trainer.  The main idea here is to start slowly and gradually increase the level of activity and exertion. Set reasonable goals and pay attention to the feedback your body is giving you. Invest in the proper equipment and safety gear. Be smart about where and when you choose to run, and run with a friend when it is practical.  For medical emergencies, keep a medical alert device on your person or at least a cell phone and ID.




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