Running can be a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness and it’s a particularly effective way to stay fit and strong as you grow older. But because running is so high impact and tough on your muscles and joints, it can also lead to injury if you don’t adapt your training routine to suit your body’s needs.
While some naysayers may say that running in your 40s or 50s isn’t healthy or safe, the sport remains popular with this age group. In fact, masters runners (those who are over a certain age, usually 40) are the fastest-growing age group in the sport.
In a study looking at participants in the New York City Marathon between 1980 and 2009, the percent of masters runners significantly increased while the number of finishers under age 40 decreased.
Whether you’re new to running or you’re a veteran runner entering a new age group, there are ways to make your running program both enjoyable and effective in your 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Know Your Limits
Before you start a running program, it is important to understand some of the basic physical effects of aging. Physical fitness typically peaks in your 20s and 30s. Even the most elite athletes begin to experience declines in performance once they hit their 40s.
As you age several changes may occur:
- Cardiovascular endurance starts to decline
- Muscle fibers begin to shrink in size and number
- Strength, coordination, and balance also decrease
Becoming less active as you age contributes to many of the declines in fitness and performance.