Should You Run Every Day?

man running in a park

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

While you know running is great exercise, you may wonder if running every day is a smart idea. After all, it would seem reasonable that the more you put in, the more you get out.

That is true, in part. But it overlooks one key point: Running places a lot of stress on the body, triggering inflammation and micro-tears that need time to heal. Without rest, you may end up losing ground rather than gaining it.

Running every day might reduce your risk of certain diseases. But it can also lead to injuries and general wear and tear on your feet, legs, and joints, affecting your overall health and your performance.

While those risks are something to consider, there are people who still prefer to go for at least a short run every day—and feel they reap benefits in doing so. You know your body best. When setting your running schedule and deciding whether or not to run every day, weigh the pros and cons.

The general consensus is that runners need to take a day to recover at least once a week.

Reasons You Might Run Daily

Despite support for a recovery day (or more), there is evidence that running every day may have some benefits. This might come as good news if you just can't imagine a day without lacing up your sneakers.

Fortunately, researchers have also shown that it doesn't take a lot of running to reap many of its rewards. One study, for example, found that it only takes about five to 10 minutes of running each day to lower your risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Death from a heart attack or stroke
  • Developing neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases

Researchers have also found that engaging in shorter-term aerobic exercise, such as running, can help improve cognition in aging brains. However, there was no significant benefit to running more than around four and a half hours each week. This means that, rather than logging lots of high-impact miles each week, you might gain the greatest benefits by putting in much shorter, more frequent runs.

Just two and a half hours total of running per week was found to have the highest benefits in terms of improving overall longevity. This amounts to around 30 minutes of running per day, five days per week.

Reasons You Might Take Rest Days

According to research from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the number of rest days you need depends on the type and duration of your workout.

While you may need a single day to recover from a one-mile run, someone else might need two or three days to recover from running a 10K. Still, others might need several weeks.

A 2015 review of studies published in PLoS One highlighted the risk of injury due to excessive running. According to the research, weekly running distances of between 30 and 39 miles in women and over 40 miles in men increased the risk of an acute injury.

Overuse injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendinopathy, iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures are very common in runners. Giving the body time to repair from the trauma of a run is thought to reduce the risks of these injuries, which can sideline you for a week to a month or more. You may also find that you feel better and stronger during your runs after a day off.

Rest days reduce the amount of cortisol, the so-called "stress hormone," which can cause depression, fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and other health issues if the physical stress levels remain high. They also give you a mental break: You'll reduce your chances of feeling burned out and bored with running.

When to Take Rest Days

If you decide that you could benefit from rest days, strategically scheduling them is your next step. The best days for rest will depend on what type of runner you are, when you typically run (and for how long), and if you're training for a specific event.

If you tend to run a lot of miles on the weekends, for example, then Monday might be a good rest day for you. If you're training for a long-distance event like a marathon and you do your long runs on Saturday, you may want to rest on Friday, so you have fresh legs when you hit the trail.

Listen to Your Body

If you feel like you need a rest day, take it. Don't be fixated on reaching a goal number of miles in a week if you are feeling fatigued or sore. Pay attention to pain and soreness so you can head off a potential injury.

Rest Days for New Runners

Experts often advise those just starting out to run no more than three or four days per week. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of activity on running days, two days of non-running workouts, and at least one rest day per week.

As you build your endurance, speed, and aerobic capacity, you can begin gradually adding more running to your training. You may want to start out running every other day. This will give you sufficient recovery time while you are building a running habit. You can either take a complete rest day or do another activity on your days off from running.

But you also need to be careful that you don't let rest be an excuse for not running. You'll need to stick to a consistent schedule if you want to achieve your training goals and reach your desired fitness level.

Rest Days for Experienced Runners

If you're a more experienced runner, one or two rest days should be sufficient for injury prevention and recovery. As a rule of thumb, limit your total mileage to no more than 40 miles per week to reduce your risk of injury.

Cross-Training for Recovery

Working in one or two days of cross-training into your week can help you stay active on your non-running days, if you choose not to rest entirely, and work some muscles that you don’t normally target during your runs.

Cross-training can help balance your muscle groups, boost strength, increase flexibility, and improve your cardiovascular endurance. Some good cross-training activities for runners include:

  • Strength training workouts use resistance to strengthen muscles, often via weights, machines, or resistance bands.
  • Pilates focuses on building flexibility and strength. Runners may find that this type of activity helps them build a stronger core, which can aid in their running form.
  • Yoga involves a lot of stretching and bodyweight resistance work, so it can be a great way to improve your flexibility and strength.
  • Swimming gives your body a break, since you are not placing weight and impact on your feet and joints, while still providing an excellent cardio and strength workout.

General Running Safety

Overuse injuries are often the result of doing too much, going too fast, or working too hard. If you do choose to run every day or even most days, there are some important things you should do reduce the strain on your body.

  • Pace yourself. Easy runs at a comfortable, conversational pace are less stressful on your joints and muscles.
  • Increase your miles or speed gradually. Making a big jump in how far you run or how fast you run can lead to soreness or injury.
  • Wear good shoes. Make sure your shoes fit well and have plenty of support. Buy new shoes promptly when needed.
  • Never skip your warm-up or cool-down. Not only will you feel less sore if you complete them, but you'll be less likely to get hurt.

A Word From Verywell

While rest days are important to prevent injury, running every day may have some health benefits. Staggering your running days with cross-training or complete rest days can be an effective way to enjoy the benefits of running while still giving your body the occasional break.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lee D-C, Brellenthin AG, Thompson PD, Sui X, Lee I-M, Lavie CJ. Running as a key lifestyle medicine for longevity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2017;60(1):45-55. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2017.03.005

  2. Chapman SB, Aslan S, Spence JS, et al. Shorter term aerobic exercise improves brain, cognition, and cardiovascular fitness in aging. Front Aging Neurosci. 2013;5:75. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2013.00075

  3. Schnohr P, Marott JL, Lange P, Jensen GB. Longevity in male and female joggers: the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;177(7):683-689. doi:10.1093/aje/kws301

  4. Dalleck LC. The science of post-exercise recovery. American Council on Exercise.

  5. van der Worp MP, ten Haaf DSM, van Cingel R, de Wijer A, Nijhuis-van der Sanden MWG, Staal JB. Injuries in runners; a systematic review on risk factors and sex differences. PLoS One. 2015;10(2):e0114937. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114937

Additional Reading

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.