Running is a great form of exercise that can help you stay in shape, release endorphins, and feel good. It’s also very affordable! So if you’re looking for a new way to get in shape on the cheap, running might be just what you’re looking for. If running sounds like something that interests you, but you’re not sure where to start or how much to do, this guide is exactly what you need. More specifically, if you’re wondering, “how many miles should I run a day?” then this is the article for you. Read on to learn more about running and how to incorporate it into your life.
How Many Miles Should I Run A Day?
The answer to this question is – it depends. Running is a great sport with plenty of benefits (13). Several factors determine how many miles you should run each day, including:
Goals Of The Runner
Many people like running because they can enjoy their time outdoors and explore new places while getting fit in the process. Other people run for recreation, but they don’t necessarily push themselves beyond what feels comfortable or safe; in this case, they may be done with their workout after 30 minutes on the trails.
The majority of runners, though, train to run long distances or compete in races. In this case, endurance and stamina are the most important factors; you’re looking for a good balance between speed and distance. Once you’ve established your goal (and if it’s recreation), then it’s easier to determine how many miles you should run.
Another factor that affects mileage is your level of fitness. For example, if you’re new to running, then it’s important to build endurance slowly. If you try to run too much, too soon, you could end up with an injury or sick leave from work due to lack of energy.
On the other hand, more experienced runners don’t have this problem because they know their limits and can push themselves beyond without getting hurt or sick. To continue making progress as a runner and avoid stalling out at a certain level, it’s crucial to keep testing yourself by pushing your limits gradually.
When starting as a runner, especially if you’ve never been very active before, start with just two miles a day at first. For example, you could run two miles on Monday and Wednesday and four miles on Friday.
After that, increase your mileage by 10% every week until you reach around 60 to 80 miles per week. This is generally considered the sweet spot for staying in shape and avoiding injuries: not too much and not too little.
Other Exercise Activities You’re Participating In
If you’re a runner but also cycle, swim, or engage in another sport, then you’ll need to adjust your running routine accordingly. Most other types of exercise require different muscle groups than running does, and these muscles must be given enough time to rest and recover between workouts.
For example, if you run for 30 minutes every day (Monday through Friday) and then do the elliptical on the weekends, your legs will constantly be tired from running. This can lead to injuries that sideline your training efforts for months!
So if you’re an avid runner who likes to mix it up with other activities as well, give yourself at least two days off per week (e.g., Saturday and Sunday) so that your muscles have a chance to rest up and recover. Make sure not to overtrain your muscles (10).
Daily Running Guide: Here’s How Many Miles You Should Run Per Day
In reality, there’s no set number of miles you should run per day. What’s more important is how many minutes you spend at it – this matters whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner. Here’s a simple guide for those looking to build or sustain a running habit:
New Runner: Start Gradually
New runners should start with what they can do and then set an achievable goal. They must start slowly to avoid injury. It is also a good idea to take a running test, which indicates how many miles a runner can do before hitting a wall. The cooper fitness test is commonly used (3).
To Lose Fat: Consider Three Miles A Day
If you’ve been wondering, “how many miles should I run a day to lose body fat?”, consider the three miles a day rule. The reason three miles is so popular is that it’s challenging yet doable for most people.
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Build Endurance: Your Mileage To 60 Per Week
It is important for runners to gradually increase their endurance, so they stay injury-free and have the energy for other activities. A good way to build endurance is by following the 10% rule: add about 10% each week until you get up to at least 60 miles per week. Going past this mark will not really help you achieve your goals quicker or improve your abilities faster.
Training For A Marathon: Focus On Quality Over Distance
If you’ve been wondering how many miles should I run a day to prepare for a marathon, you need to shift your focus from miles to other factors. While training for a marathon, it’s not about running the most miles per week – it’s about how smoothly and efficiently you can cover long distances in a shorter period. That’s why it is important to focus on short, fast workouts and increasing time running rather than adding mileage.
Does This Mean You Should Run Every Day?
No. Running every day is not advisable because your body needs time to rest and repair itself. Your joints and muscles need time to recover. Ideally, you should alternate between high and low mileage days (e.g., one day of 4-6 miles and then the next day off).
What Are The Benefits Of Running Everyday?
Running frequently (with enough rest in between) has the following benefits:
Running is a very efficient cardiovascular exercise. It’s almost as effective as cycling, and it’s better for weight loss.
It also strengthens the heart by making the muscles pump more blood with each beat, thus strengthening over time (9). This can be particularly important for individuals who have been sedentary for extended periods or work for desk jobs that limit movement.
Read More: Running 6 Miles A Day: Is It A Good Idea?
Enhanced Metabolic Efficiency
The process of running itself involves a complex series of energy transformations from carbohydrates to fats and onwards to a final form called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). What this means is that if you run long enough and often enough, you become more efficient at metabolizing your daily intake of carbohydrates to produce ATP without going into oxygen debt (7). In other words, your body becomes more efficient at processing carbohydrates.
Improved Brain Health
Long-term studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can improve cognitive function in the elderly and those with early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease (12). One reason is that exercise stimulates the production of a protein called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This facilitates neurogenesis or new neuron formation in portions of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
Improved Bone Density
Running triggers a response within your body that causes bones to grow larger and stronger as a reaction against damaging forces (5). One way this happens is by stimulating osteocytes to produce RANKL, which then goes on to stimulate osteoclasts. The result is stronger bones as well as denser bones. In other words, running helps keep our skeletal structure strong as we age.
Improved Joint And Muscle Health
Running strengthens your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This prevents injuries that can wreck an active lifestyle (4). It also helps with weight management since lean muscle mass plays a role in determining what your body fat percentage is.
Enhanced Feelings Of Well-Being
In addition to all those benefits listed above, there’s also an emotional component to running that keeps people coming back to it as a daily practice. Many runners learn the hard way that if they miss even one day of running, their mood and general psychological well-being are affected.
Several studies have shown the stress-relieving and mood-boosting properties of running. Scientists have found that running releases endorphins, hormones that give the user a feeling of euphoria similar to morphine (6).
Running Reduces Cancer Risk
Studies have shown that long-term runners reduce their risk of developing colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer by about 40 to 50% (11). The reason for this is twofold: one being the fact that running improves cardiovascular health, including reducing inflammation throughout the body, but also because it stimulates apoptosis in cells.
Apoptosis is when your body kills its own cells to maintain homeostasis (i.e., balance). Cancerous cells are much harder for your body to kill than healthy ones, so the more you can do to boost the apoptosis process, the more efficient your body will be at removing harmful cells from your system (1).
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How To Start And Sustain A Running Habit?
You knew it all along, but the research is in – running regularly is good for you. So let’s get to it!
Based on what we know about how habit formation works, here are some key elements of a running program that will make it part of your life for good:
Equip Yourself With The Right Gear
If you’re going to stick with this for a while, set yourself up for success by getting shoes that feel great and outfits you like. In the long run, it will be much easier if you don’t have to worry about equipment as you get started.
Running distance compounds like anything else. So while there’s no magic bullet to changing your habits, starting with very short runs and adding just ten (10) minutes or so each week until you reach an hour or more at a time will get you into the habit without overloading yourself–- keeping yourself from giving up if you’re way out of shape when you start.
Always Warm-Up & Cool Down
Start and end every run with a few minutes of light exercise that gets your blood pumping. That’s the quick and dirty version of how to start running for beginners. And as you get to know your body better through training, figure out what additional elements make sense as part of your post-run routine (foam rolling? dynamic stretching?). It is important to always do a warm-up then warm down (2).
Don’t Overthink It
Your first goal should be to figure out a simple, enjoyable way of integrating running into your life. Running with other people is great if you can make it work, but even solo runners eventually find friends and family members who don’t mind joining them for an occasional run.
Once your feet hit the pavement, minor details like exactly how far or at what pace you’ll run or whether you’ll listen to music or podcasts as you run should be the last thing on your mind. You won’t be going for a personal record today, so just go.
Find A Running Buddy
Running is more fun when you do it with others, and the people in your life will be much more likely to encourage you to stick with it if they’re there for moral support (1). So put out feelers in your neighborhood, workplace, or social circles about potential partners–or even better, groups that already exist.
If other members know you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to ask them how their first runs went; they’ll remember what it’s like and are usually happy to share advice.
Beyond a certain point, the running habit is about so much more than just getting out and going for a run; it requires planning and commitment with your free time, too. So when you complete a week of training runs with no problem, treat yourself to something nice that you’ve been looking forward to buying or doing but haven’t allowed yourself until then.
Take Advantage Of Technology
There are now loads of tools available in both online and smartphone apps to help ensure that you stay engaged with your running program (15). Find one or more that work for you, so you can quickly track your progress toward your goals without having to keep the data in your head–and also be reminded of all those milestones along the way!
Know It’s Okay To Take A Break
If today is not a good day for you to run, that’s totally fine – just take it as easy as you need to and do something else active if possible (yoga, swimming, tennis). Remember, it takes several weeks of regular exercise before seeing significant physical improvements over doing nothing at all.
So instead of panicking or feeling guilty about being out of commission today, focus on what you can do to take care of yourself right now, and simply commit again to hit the pavement as soon as you’re ready.
Don’t Forget To Adjust Your Diet Accordingly
You need to fuel your running just like an athlete would so be sure to factor in many of the things that apply to your training. Depending on how long or hard you run, you might want to bring snacks along with you before and during the run, plus extra water afterward.
But don’t put yourself through a full-blown “cleanse” or make other dietary changes abruptly. Again, find something healthy that will work for you and get used to it gradually, allowing at least two weeks between any major changes.
If you want to run to lose fat and get in shape, you’ll have to overhaul your diet. Go from processed foods to whole foods. Cut out the sugar and alcohol. Work protein into every meal (16).
Prioritize Rest And Sleep
Running is great, but it puts a lot of stress on your muscles and can leave you feeling wiped out–literally. If that’s the case with you, give yourself more time between training runs to rest and recover, or cut back on your mileage, so you don’t risk overtraining.
It’s also important to get enough sleep, so your body has time to repair and rebuild itself at night after all those miles during the day. Aim for at least seven hours of good sleep each night to recharge your batteries before tackling another run in the morning (8).
The Bottom Line
How many miles you should run a day depends on several factors. Building a running habit is a gradual process of gently pushing yourself, one day at a time. You need to get used to the feeling of running before you can push your body beyond its comfort zone. When it comes to building endurance and training for marathons, focus on quality over quantity.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 3 Reasons to Work Out With a Friend (2021, cdc.gov)
- Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Cooper Test Provides Better Half-Marathon Performance Prediction in Recreational Runners Than Laboratory Tests (2019, frontiersin.org)
- Current Concept of Muscle and Tendon Adaptation to Strength and Conditioning (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Does running strengthen bone? (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Endorphins and mood changes in long-distance running (1982, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Interaction among Skeletal Muscle Metabolic Energy Systems during Intense Exercise (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review (2017, hindawi.com)
- Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Overtraining Syndrome (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical Activity in Cancer Prevention and Survival: A Systematic Review (2019, journals.lww.com)
- Physical Exercise as a Preventive or Disease-Modifying Treatment of Dementia and Brain Aging (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Running for health: Even a little bit is good, but a little more is probably better (2014, harvard.edu)
- The effect of acute running and cycling exercise on T cell apoptosis in humans: A systematic review (2019, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Tracking physical activity using smart phone apps: assessing the ability of a current app and systematically collecting patient recommendations for future development (2020, biomedcentral.com)
- Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies (2003, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)