What to Know About Running After Fifty

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 25, 2021
3 min read

You may think getting older means cutting back on exercise to avoid injuries. The opposite is true. An active lifestyle keeps your muscles and bones strong, your mind sharp, and can add years to your life. 

‌The CDC recommends that all adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. This averages out to 30 minutes of activity five days a week. If you like more vigorous exercise, like running, you should get 75 minutes per week. This equals 15 minutes, five days a week.

Build up endurance. Running gets your heart rate up. It challenges your body more in the best ways.‌‌ When you get cardio regularly, you improve your blood flow. When your blood flow is strong, it delivers more oxygen to your brain, muscles, and organs. This relieves fatigue and breathlessness that may otherwise slow you down during everyday activities.

Live longer. No matter what exercise you choose, more physical activity could add years to your life. Not only is running good for your health, but it also helps lower your chances of getting certain health problems. With age, you also naturally slow down and gain weight. Running after 50 could help you control your weight and boost your metabolism.

Running after 50 may also be linked to benefits like:

  • Lower risk for getting certain cancers 
  • Lower odds of getting diabetes 
  • Improved levels of “good” cholesterol
  • Better bone density 
  • Less inflammation
  • Fewer feelings of depression and anxiety

Potential injuries. Some common ones are:

  • Runner’s knee: pain caused by your kneecap rubbing against your thigh bone
  • Achilles tendon tear: pain along the back of your foot where your heel connects to your calf muscle 
  • Shin splints: pain along the bottom front of your legs causes by inflammation ‌
  • Stress fractures: minor breaks in your bone ‌

‌Listen to your body and slow down when you need to. This may mean taking days or weeks off from your running routine to avoid an injury.

Keep in mind that you lose endurance more quickly as you age. Instead of jumping back into your past running routine, start slow. Alternate jogging and walking until you build back up to where you were.‌

Talk to your doctor first. Let them know about any health conditions you have. They’ll let you know if it’s safe for you to start a running routine. If they give you the green light, follow these tips, too:

Know your ability. Your mind is still young even though your body has aged. Be patient with yourself and commit to the long-term goal of building up your endurance. Don’t push yourself too hard, because that’s how injuries happen. Instead, listen to your body and track your progress.‌

Know your stride. Some people’s feet naturally strike the ground with their heels, while others strike with their toes. Neither one is right or wrong, it just depends on what’s comfortable for you. Don’t try to force a particular stride while running. The key is to find your rhythm.

Get the right shoes. Don’t be swayed by catchy designs or claims about boosted performance. Take your time trying on four or five pairs of running shoes, and choose the ones that feel best to you.

Alternate walking and running. Start out by running for 20-30 seconds at a time and walk until you catch your breath again. Each week, increase the amount of time you spend running and decrease the time you spend walking.

Consider strength training. A great way to complement running is to do strength training on alternating days. The CDC recommends at least 2 days per week of strength training. There are many activities you can do at home, including: 

  • Lifting weights 
  • Working out with resistance bands
  • Using your body weight for sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and lunges 
  • Gardening, which includes shoveling and digging
  • Practicing some yoga