Running for seniors is very beneficial to both physical and mental fitness. But many older runners are usually concerned about their safety and viability of starting or reintroducing running into their fitness program.
Running is viable and safe no matter your age. Only that you have to follow a specialized running program compared to younger runners. Below is a guide to help you start running at old age!
Related: Best Running Shoes for Older Runners
How Safe is Running for Seniors?
The safety of running at older age depends on whether you’re an active runner or you want to resume running after many years of break. That means running programs for different individuals will depend on the level of their inactivity.
The good news is that it’s not too late to embark on running to improve your health. If you have been an active runner, subsequent running will keep you young and energetic. Study has shown that running can improve walking efficiency and slow down walking deterioration as you age.
You require more strength when running than when walking. That means, running can help improve the strength of your muscles more than just walking. You can also maintain your strength and activity by participating in other cardio activities like cardio dances.
If you have not been an active runner for a couple of years, it’s advisable to consult your physical therapist before you start running. During your period of inactivity, your must have lost a lot in terms of balance, muscle strength, coordination and mobility. Thus, you might suffer exertion-related injuries if you start running immediately.
Your physician will craft a fitness program to help you start running. Such a program will entail strengthening activities such as walking, yoga, jogging and swimming among others. Once, your body becomes acclimatized, you’re now ready begin your running program.
How Does Ageing Affect Your Feet?
As you advance in age, your feet undergo numerous natural changes which affect their normal functioning. From lost springiness, fallen arches to reduced flexibility, these changes result in decreased effectiveness and risk of injuries during physical activities including running.
Below are the most common changes you expect on your feet and their impact on your running activities.
The foot arches play a big role in absorbing landing impacts during walking and running. However, as you grow old, the tendons that hold the arches tend to lose their elasticity which makes the arches less springy.
As a result, your feet are unable to absorb impacts as effectively as when you were young. Thus older runners may experience some limitations when it comes to running. For instance, it limits your mileage and the time you’re likely to be active in running.
Reduced Muscle Strength
A decline in muscle strength results from the reduction in muscle mass as one grows old. This leads to reduced physical activity including walking and running. However, loss of muscle mass and strength on your feet can be minimized by remaining active in physical activity.
Individuals who remain physically active throughout their life are therefore less likely to suffer age-related physical disabilities at older age.
Thinning of Bones
Bone material decreases with age thus leading to thinning of bones also referred to as osteoporosis. This condition leads to weak or less dense bones which are susceptible to fractures especially during physical activity.
Although older people are more prone to osteoporosis, individuals of all ages can be affected. The condition is also accelerated by lack or little exercise or physical activity.
Other risk factors include smoking, use of steroids, vitamin D deficiency among others.
Running Guide for Seniors – Step-By-Step Guide
1. Get a Medical Clearance
If running has not been your routine, you need to consult your doctor for a medical check-up. This will confirm whether you’re fit to begin running.
2. Choose the correct running gear
The most important part of running gear is your running shoe. Your feet need to be protected from injuries especially those related to impact shocks. Running shoes for older runners need to be well cushioned, supportive and offer stability.
They should also be durable and have good traction of surfaces to prevent slippage.
3. Strengthening Exercise
Start with fitness exercises to strengthen you’re your joints, muscles, bones and lungs in readiness for a more intensive running activity. This is especially essential for beginners and runners who have not been very active in running.
A typical fitness build-up can entail alternating periods of moderate jogging and rest. Gradually, increase the running pace as your body starts coping up with the activity. As time goes, you can include short runs up hills to strengthen your lungs and legs.
5. Learn Proper Running Mechanics
Pay attention to your running mechanics to prevent injuries. Consider the following tips:
- Run with your head in upright position. In this position, you breath properly thus increasing your energy.
- Release tension in your shoulders to avoid wasting energy.
- Allow your arms to swing naturally. Typically they will bend to 90° with reference to your body.
- Relax your body. When your muscles are relaxed you waste less energy and achieve more effective strides.
- Avoid heel striking and forefoot running.
5. Do Warm-Up Before Running
You are now ready to run. But one more thing! Unlike walking, running is an intensive activity that requires a lot of energy and involves muscle stretches.
Before you hit the road, warm up your joints and muscles to prepare them for a more intense activity. This will also allow proper oxygen and blood flow in your muscles. A typical warm-up can entail light jogging or jumping.
Alternate your running with periods of rest to allow your body some time for recovery. You can run 3 to 4 times a week in an alternating order. During your rest days you can take part in cross-training activities such as yoga.
This will help in leveraging the range of motions in your muscles to improve your overall performance.
How to Choose Running Shoes for Seniors
As we advance in age, our feet deteriorate in their strength and elasticity. This means, at older age we require special running shoes to enhance our running and protect our feet from impact shocks. Below are a few factors you should consider when looking for the best running shoes for older runners.
The most important quality in a senior’s running shoe is the ability of the shoe to absorb impact shocks. Our connective tissues and joints lose much of their initial elasticity as we advance in age. That means, we must look for a way of compensating for the lost responsiveness with proper technology.
Luckily, shoe companies have come up with innovative ways of adding shock attenuation in running shoes. Such technologies include, foam, blown rubber and airbags among others.
Older runners have a difficulty hitting the road with their already weak legs. Thus, adding more weight to their feet can make it more difficult to run. Therefore, running shoes for older runners should be lightweight to ease the burden on their feet.
Older runners have a difficult in balancing and coordinating their movements when running or walking. Stability in running shoes can be achieved through technologies such as flex grooves, guide rails among others.
When you have a problem with balance, there is likely hood of slipping on surfaces when running. But you can reduce the chances of slipping on surfaces by wearing shoes that good grip. They should also allow you to run even in wet surfaces without slipping.
Now you know that running is a viable option for your fitness throughout your life. It improves your overall health and prevents any disabilities related to old age.
Before you start running, consult your doctor to get a fitness test. He/she will design a program to help you start running.