Should you run every day? The pros and cons from the experts
Are you a runner who feels the need to run daily, or have you found benefits in taking days off? We explore both sides...
There are runners who claim it’s a great idea to run every day and, in fact, there are people who subscribe to a running streak (opens in new tab) philosophy. Running streaks are daily runs without a break. Meanwhile, there are other runners and exercise specialists who believe there are potential disadvantages of trying to run daily.
We spoke to experts on both sides of the discussion.
Pros of running every day
James Phillips, a strength and conditioning coach at Pure Sports Medicine (opens in new tab), relates to the quote by Hippocrates: “Give every individual the right amount of exercise, not too little and not too much.”
He reveals there are many benefits of running regularly. These include greater cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle function and improved mental health thanks to enhanced self-esteem, well-being, mood and cognition.
“Running every day provides habitual exercise, which can improve physical fitness and is one of the best predictors for better health in the elderly," he says.
There are studies (opens in new tab) that show powerful indicators that regular exercise, including running, scan low the ageing process. One example that Phillips highlights is that “running helps to maintain bone density and, therefore, reduce the risk of osteoporosis".
He adds: “Running also prevents sarcopenia (opens in new tab) [an age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength] and slows muscle atrophy [the wasting or thinning of muscle mass].”
Cons of running every day
However, our experts also state that there are a number of potential disadvantages associated with running every day. James reports that the risk is greatest when people try to do too much running too soon. This could apply to building up your distance or pace too quickly, or trying to run too frequently.
Phillips says: “There is a risk of injury if runners do too much without a careful build up.” In addition, running every day may lead to runners neglecting other important factors of physical health. “Not addressing other aspects of physical health that running can't provide, such as inadequate muscular strength for training demands or flexibility, can increase a runner’s risk of injuries.”
There may be mental health issues, too. For example, if a runner sets out to do a running streak and then gets caught up trying to keep up with this, or comparing their feats to others, there is again a risk of feeling inadequate and losing self-confidence. Runners who ignore what their body is saying about over-training effects or lack of rest and sleep could also end up falling foul of niggles and injuries.
Overtraining – and running every day – can sometimes come from a sense of guilt warns physiotherapist James Kwok.
Kwok, an ambassador of OOFOS (opens in new tab), a pioneering recovery footwear brand, says: “Overtraining is one of the most common issues that I come across. This can mean that runners do not recover adequately post-exercise.
“Many athletes feel guilty when they take a break, but building recovery days into the training schedule can, in fact, promote soft tissue adaptation, improve performance and reduce risk of injuries.
“Taking a short break from running, especially if training for a challenge such as a marathon, will have little negative impact on your current fitness.”
Ania Gabb is a personal trainer, running coach and physiotherapist. She says that she frequently witnesses runners over doing things: “I see runners going too hard and fast during their sessions, especially on recovery runs, as well as adding in extra training days. That extra run can do more harm than good.
“There is a reason why rest days are crucial. Even the elites schedule in their rest days. Our body needs time for muscle repair, muscles to grow, and time for our minds to switch off.”
Runners: why rest and recovery matter
Gabb, who is also an OOFOS ambassador, explains why we need to have rest and recovery days. She says: “Our bodies need to reset and repair damaged muscle tissue.
“Whatever type of training you partake in, during that session you create microscopic tears within your muscles. The body needs solid rest to repair the damage. If you don’t give your body time for the muscles to recover and repair then you’re at risk of injury and long-term damage.
“Taking rest days also impose mental health because you can plan to do something other than running that you enjoy, such as relaxing with friends or going out for dinner.
Better sleep is another benefit because it’s imports for the body to relax and be allowed to recharge for another training session.”
Should you run every day? It's your choice
In the end, whether you run every day, or not, will be a personal decision. There is no doubt that pulling on your favourite running shoes and going for a run is healthy, both physically and mentally.
But running every day can bring potential issues, such as an increased risk of injury or concerns about becoming obsessed about a running streak. It's important to give your time to rest and recover, so that your running performance doesn't suffer.
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Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors (opens in new tab).