Here's How Much Running You Really Need To Do To Stay Healthy

If your workout plan involves logging a lot of miles of running every week, you need to be careful not to run yourself into the ground. It turns out that a running-heavy approach is not necessarily the most efficient when it comes to maintaining fitness. While it might seem intuitive to plan a vigorous running schedule if you're looking to maximize cardio benefits or if you're training for a race, Runner's World cautions that if your weekly program includes high mile counts, over time it can take a toll on your body.

The optimal amount of running will vary from person to person, but there are ways to determine the best regimen for you. First, be clear about your main goals and what you need to achieve them. For example, getting yourself into shape to run a 5K is going to require a different approach than if you were training for a marathon. "Think about where you are in your training cycle," Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist, tells Runner's World. "It's normal to have your mileage and training workouts vary from the base-building phase to the pre-race and race phase and into the post-race recovery phase."

Lower mileage leads to surprising health benefits

According to Health, studies have shown that you don't actually need to log an exorbitant number of miles every week, and that running between five and six miles a week provides as many health benefits as putting in more miles. Researchers have found that people who engage in just one to two shorter runs per week are already at a lower risk of developing certain cancers. They are also less prone to strokes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol compared to those who clocked more mileage or those who don't run at all. 

Carl J. Lavie, the lead researcher of a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, told The New York Times that "Running for 20 to 30 minutes, or about a mile-and-a-half to three miles, twice per week would appear to be perfect." So, before you get back out there and hit the ground running, it might be a good idea to review your mileage counts and your goals to see if you need to make any adjustments. Chances are, it will help you out in the long run.