Is It OK to Run Every Day? What Are the Benefits?

Sport & Activity

"Should I run every day?" Probably not. But it depends on the intensity. Here's how to adjust your running volume to enhance your performance.

Last updated: 1 May 2024
5 min read
Is It OK to Run Every Day? What Are the Benefits?

Maybe you're craving that runner's high and are itching to log some extra miles. Or perhaps you want to reach your goals more quickly and you think jogging every day will help you do that.

There are so many benefits of running; it's easy to believe that more is better. It can be especially tempting if you're training for a half-marathon or other race, or you have specific goals like weight loss.

But is it OK to run every day? The simple answer is: No, you need at least one rest day a week to allow your muscles to recover. Plus, overtraining can lead to overuse injuries, stress and prolonged fatigue.

Where the answer gets complicated is for advanced runners who know how to properly programme a running routine and might be fine running every day. Consider this your guide to finding the balance between running and recovering so you can avoid burnout.

How Many Days a Week Can I Run?

Adults should aim to exercise between 150 and 300 minutes a week at a moderate intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes at a vigorous intensity, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Here are some ideas of what that might look like for a weekly running schedule:

  • Monday and Wednesday: 5K run, lasting approximately 30 minutes total
  • Tuesday and Thursday: 15-minute HIIT (sprint) sessions
  • Saturday: 10K run, lasting approximately 1 hour
  • Friday and Sunday: rest

Can I Run Every Day?

Running every day—particularly if you're a beginner or coming back from an injury—might not be the best idea. Why? Overtraining.

Rest and recovery are an essential part of your workout programme. When muscles experience micro-tears in response to a training stimulus, it triggers the repair process. Blood gets pumped to the muscles to clear out lactic acid and supply oxygen and nutrients.

But this repair process doesn't happen instantaneously. Post-workout recovery can take anywhere from two days to a week, depending on the intensity of the activity performed, according to the American Council on Exercise. This can be based on:

  • Duration of exercise
  • Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) during exercise
  • Heart rate zone (anaerobic or aerobic activity)
  • Type of exercise

So, in terms of running and whether you can run daily, the answer is: it depends. Weigh the pros and cons to decide what's best for you.

What Are the Benefits of Running Every Day?

A July–August 2017 study in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found that running five to 10 minutes every day at a moderate pace resulted in improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

In just 10 minutes, your heart rate will be in a moderate aerobic zone, but it won't cause too much stress or muscle damage. That means you shouldn't need as much time to recover.

But if you start to increase the intensity of your run, you need to factor in sufficient recovery to avoid overtraining.

Professional, elite runners often have a packed training schedule that may include running every day. But here's the caveat: not every run is maximum intensity. Their weekly workouts not only include interval work and longer runs but also easier and/or shorter runs for active recovery.

However, beginners shouldn't try to run every day, as it can cause more harm than good. The above-mentioned 2017 study found that the health benefits of running reach their peak at 4.5 hours per week. After that, the risk of overuse injuries and overtraining increases.

What Are the Risks of Running Every Day?

  1. 1.Increased Risk of Injury

    Running and jogging are high-impact activities. Each heelstrike produces a force three to four times your body weight. If you're jogging daily, this adds up, increasing your risk of injury, according to a January 2020 study in Sports Health.

  2. 2.Decreased Performance

    When you build in proper recovery time, you build cardiovascular fitness. Your body is able to repair itself and get stronger and fitter each time.

    But if you train too frequently, these adaptations can't occur, and your performance will probably suffer. Your muscles may even atrophy as a result, according to a June 2011 study in The Anatomical Record.

  3. 3.Compromised Mental Health

    Exercising regularly can help improve your mental health by lowering stress, improving sleep quality and boosting mood, according to a July 2008 study in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation.

    However, exercising too frequently can be detrimental to your mental well-being. As part of your body's response to running, your levels of cortisol (stress hormone) spike. With adequate recovery, this comes back down. Without it, these levels stay elevated and can lead to chronic stress and hormone imbalance.

    Running too much doesn't just affect you at a biochemical level. It can tax your mental health by making you feel obligated to keep running even when your body is begging for a break. So take time to fully recover—mentally and physically.

What's the Best Running Schedule?

A good goal for most non-professional athletes is to run three to four days a week at a moderate intensity. If you're training for a race, trying to lose weight or running for general cardiovascular fitness, it's a good idea to incorporate cross-training with weightlifting, bodyweight workouts or yoga. This can help:

  • Rejuvenate your mind
  • Increase motivation
  • Fix muscle imbalances and biomechanical irregularities
  • Improve other aspects of fitness, like balance and coordination
  • Increase bone density and muscle mass
  • Reduce injury risk

Originally published: 24 November 2021

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