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How to Start Running if You Hate it

Running is an easy and inexpensive way to get and stay in shape. But finding the motivation can be the hardest part. Here are three tips to help reach your fitness goals:

Know the Health Benefits

Any type of physical activity provides health benefits. Running or walking can help you improve your:

  • Cardiovascular health: Running can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to research. Running also conditions your heart to pump more strongly and efficiently, making better use of the oxygen in your blood with each heartbeat.
  • Muscles, bone, and joint strength: While weight-bearing exercise such as running and walking are important for everyone, it can really benefit those who are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Regular physical activity can also help improve balance and reduce injury of falls.
  • Mental health: Studies have shown that physical activity is as good for preventing anxiety and depression as medication but has fewer side effects.
  • Sleep: Regular physical activity can help you get better rest at night and even help alleviate sleep-related problems.
  • Memory: According to one study, a few days of running led to the growth of new brain cells, which improved the ability to recall memories.
  • Mood and energy: Ever heard of “runner’s high”? This feeling after a run can improve your sense of overall well-being, and studies have shown it could improve your quality of life.

Take it Slow

Running can be challenging because it’s a high-intensity sport. However, you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get into it.

“Introducing intensity into your workout can make a big difference in your health and fitness,” says Traci Thompson, MS, director of PEAK Health & Fitness at University of Utah Health. “Incorporating a few intervals of running during your daily walk can provide several health benefits.”

Here’s how to start:

  1. Start by walking or brisk walking on the treadmill or outside. Aim for 20- to 30-minute workouts.
  2. Add intervals of running during your daily walks. Warm up with five minutes of walking, and then incorporate a few internals of running. For example, run for 30 seconds to two minutes, and then walk for two to five minutes before doing another run session.
  3. Increase your running time gradually or decrease your walking time.
  4. Hydrate and nourish your body by drinking enough water and eating balanced meals.

Stay Motivated

Running isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Give it a chance by:

  • Finding a location that you enjoy
  • Running with a friend
  • Picking some music or a podcast
  • Wearing comfortable gear

“My number one tip is to find something you like,” Thompson says. “If you do not enjoy the exercise, your chances of sustaining it are very low.”

While running is a great way to stay in shape, there are many physical activities to try, like pickleball, swimming, or Zumba. “Our bodies are meant to move, and I believe there’s a physical activity for everyone,” Thompson says. “You just have to find it.”