If you’re asking yourself how many miles you should run a week to stay healthy, you are asking an excellent question. However, you need to consider that there are more important questions to ask before you can arise at your answer. Let’s delve into those essential questions to help guide you to your answer.
What Is Your Present Level of Fitness?
The first question that bears mention is regarding your present level of fitness. If you are new to running, and in general new to fitness, you will want to start small and slow. What does that mean? Small mileage at an easy pace. Jumping into a fitness regiment too quickly or vigorously can be bad.
New runners may set a time goal instead of a mileage goal. So instead of thinking how many miles should you run, think about it in times and minutes per week. Start with thirty minutes three to five times each week. Once you can comfortably do that, consider trying to go further each time you venture out.
If in your first weeks you go 2.5 miles in the thirty minutes, start trying to go a little bit further on some of the runs. Remember, you should not always be running super hard nor fast. A good running plan has you running some easy and some challenging runs.
If you are looking to improve your cardiovascular health. the American Heart Association has a lot to say on the topic. They recommend you get either 150 minutes of moderate activity (translation: 2.5 hours) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. Ideally, you are getting a combination of both spread throughout a few workouts during the week. In addition to that, they recommend twice-weekly strength training.
Examples of moderate-intensity activities include walking briskly, water aerobics, or slow cycling. Vigorous activity, on the other hand, includes running, swimming laps, fast cycling, or any type of HIIT training.
Once you become acclimated to running, however, even running can be parceled down to moderate and vigorous activity depending on how much you are taxing your cardio system.
Exercise for Bone Health
In order to ensure your bones are healthy and to prevent possible osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases, impact exercise is a good thing to implement into your workout regiment. Weight-bearing exercises, as little as 30 minutes a day, can make a positive impact on keeping your bones healthy.
Again, if your end game is better bone health, think minutes in activity rather than mileage.
Running For Weight Loss
Many people assume that running will compel the pounds to melt away since elite distance runners tend to be lithe and thin. However, for most people that does not seem to be true.
If you are running for weight loss there are not a magical number of miles you should be running each week. Rather, think about getting yourself into a calorie deficit. Often, people run in a fasted state and then return from their run starving which means they engage in mindless eating.
What is running in a fasted state? That means you get out of bed and pound the pavement before putting any type of fuel into your body. Running in a fasted state works well for many runners. However, if you then come home and eat everything in sight, you have done yourself a nutritional disservice.
If you are running for weight loss again, it isn’t a magic number of miles you need. Rather, you should be focusing on getting some exercise to improve your overall fitness and help you to get into a calorie deficit.
Running For Mental Health
Some people run because it is an excellent stress reliever. In addition to that, avid runners report a type of euphoria that follows running, often referred to as a runner’s high. If you are running for your mental health, the number of miles you need to run will vary greatly.
One day, a simple and easy three-mile run might do the trick. If you have had a particularly hectic or stressful day, you may find you need an hour or so in order to clear your head. In the interest of full disclosure when I have had a terribly difficult day I do not need a set number of miles; instead, I hit up the track.
When I find myself looping the oval, it’s 400 repeats that lower my stress level and help to make things right in the world. Sometimes it takes 6, sometimes 8-10. I always leave feeling better.
Do You Have a Running Specific Goal?
What if your reason for running is not related to any of the above? What if you have a running specific goal such as a half marathon. If you are smart, you have laid your plan well ahead of time. You will start 12-14 weeks before race day and will gradually increase mileage.
If you are new to running but you set yourself a lofty goal of finishing 13.1, you will probably start with some run/walk intervals. Your first week may look like 12 miles or so. As you slowly work your way through the plan, you will increase both daily and weekly mileage.
In this regard, you need to work in a diligent manner to be sure you keep yourself physically healthy enough to keep running. Oftentimes runners start off too aggressively. If you increase mileage too quickly you can end up with shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or a myriad of other running related problems.
Recognizing You Are Overdoing It
If you are often tired, your body does not seem to be recovering or you are sore all the time, you might be overdoing it. In addition to that, you should ask yourself if your workout regime is adding to, or detracting from your daily life. Although it is good to be goal-oriented, your daily workout schedule should not add stress to your life.
Of course some days it will be stressful to get it in and if you have a goal you are determined to meet, then it is certainly worth it. What we are talking about here is if you get to where you feel like you have to run or engage in some other type of exercise. If it gets to be work or adds to your mental burdens, perhaps you are asking too much of your body.
Running should be something that you want to do, not a chore you look at as something you have to accomplish.
So, do you know the answer to the question: how many miles should I run a week to stay healthy? The answer is quite simple: it depends. Ask yourself what your level of fitness is. Ask yourself what your goals are. Ask yourself if running is adding to your happiness.
Once you sort through those questions, you should have your answer. And make no mistake, it is your answer. Why? Because how many miles a week you should run to improve your health is a deeply personal and individualized question and answer.