Taking a brisk stroll three or four times a week can be a great workout, but to add years to your life, try picking up the pace.
A study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology found that running, even just 5 to 10 minutes per day (30 to 59 minutes per week) at slow speeds, reduced the risk of premature death from all causes, including heart disease.
Researchers determined that short bouts of running were helpful, even for people with health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol.
Still, running can be tough on your joints, especially at age 50 and up. Up to half of all runners report an injury annually, according to a review of running injuries by UpToDate, which provides evidence to help doctors make medical decisions. Don’t run the risk. Take these steps to stay safe.
1. Start slowly
If you’ve never run before, get your doctor’s OK first. Then “start with walking, and alternate walking with jogging, gradually increasing the amount of time you jog,” says Sims Corbett, spokesperson for Silver Sneakers, a free fitness program geared to adults 50 and up.
In the beginning, you might jog for only a minute at a time—from one mailbox to another, for example, before walking again.
Every two weeks, increase your running time by just 5 minutes, and consider jogging only every other day to gradually get your cardiovascular system as well as your muscles and bones used to the high-intensity activity.
2. Give your old shoes the boot
Look for running shoes with a wide toe box, which will safely distribute the force of impact each time your feet hit the ground, at least one-half inch of room between the tip of the shoe and your toes.
When you’re shopping, test jogging shoes in the store to make sure your heels don’t slip. Shop at the end of the day, if possible, when your feet are most swollen. Look for cushioning—but not too much. Less can be more.
Running shoes with extra thick heel cushioning can encourage your feet to land with greater impact than necessary. Comfort is key, too.
3. Take this concrete advice
To reduce your risk of shin splints and tibial stress fractures, avoid running on hard surfaces, such as streets and sidewalks. Instead, seek out softer spots, such as a padded track or the treadmill.
“The treadmill adds a little more cushion. It’s also great for training when it’s too hot or cold to run outside,” Corbett says.
To get the most out of your running routine, make it a regular habit. A recent follow-up to the running study found that those who logged 51 minutes per week or less lived approximately three years longer than non-runners.