Lengthen Your Stride, Extend Your Life: 4 Tip to Jumpstart Your Running Practice

Good news for runners: a short jog every day could extend your life. In a recent study, runners had a 30 percent lower mortality rate from all causes and a 45 percent lower risk of dying due to cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) causes than non-runners. In fact, the research on more than 50,000 adults published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded that a five- to ten-minute daily jog "is associated with markedly reduced risks of death."

Not only should running extend your life, but it could do much, much more: "Running is also known to help reduce anxiety and depression," says USA Track & Field-certified running coach Jenn Prohaska of the Boston Running Center. "Studies, as well as my own person experiences, have also shown that running can help improve memory, mental clarity, and sleep." Not a road warrior? You can reap the benefits by starting a running practice now. It's not difficult; running requires no gym membership and can be done just about anywhere. All it takes is a good pair of shoes and the will to get started.

Still, many people are hesitant to head out on their first run. Prohaska attributes this to several factors: First, the physical challenge of running can be humbling. Secondly, starting a new exercise regimen requires a person to "to push out of [her] comfort zone and explore what is possible." For many, this isn't easy.

So what if you’re one of the many reluctant runners? How can you make your first step toward a healthier and longer life? Prohaska suggests these tips:

  1. Get the right shoe. "The first thing I always encourage new runners to do is to get fitted for the best sneaker for their body at a store with experienced folks in the shoe department," says Prohaska. "A proper shoe fitting should involve analysis of how your foot connects with the ground as you run to ensure you are providing the proper level of support for your body as you move."
  2. Start slow. If you’re a beginner, tackling a 5k right out of the gate may not be the right first move. "Start gradually and build a solid base before pushing forward, similar to the lower level of a pyramid. Pushing too fast can lead to injury and burnout," says Prohaska.
  3. Use online resources to help get started. Running programs abound on the Internet. Couch to 5k and Runner's World’s 8-week startup, among others, may provide you the guidance to get started. "Everyone needs to start where they are today and work to where they want to go. When working with new runners, I encourage clients to incorporate a walk/run program into their routine and gradually increase the time spent running without pushing too fast to increase the distance," says Prohaska.
  4. Seek out a coach. Nothing quite inspires like a quality coach. "Coaches will hold you accountable and provide the guidance and motivation to keep you going," says Prohaska. Trained professionals can tailor a regimen to your needs and ensure you meet the goals you set.

Jenn Prohaska reviewed this article. 


Duck-chul Lee, PhD; Russell R. Pate, PhD; Carl J. Lavie, MD; Xuemei Sui, MD, PhD; Timothy S. Church, MD, PhD; Steven N. Blair, PED. "Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk." Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2014; 64(5):472-481. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058 

Clark, Josh. "Couch to 5K Running Plan/C25K Mobile App." Cool Running. Accessed September 16, 2014. 

Burfoot, Amby. "The 8-Week Beginner's Program." Runner's World. Accessed September 16, 2014.