Should You Run Every Day?

What the Current Research Tells Us

Young couple running in Dubai

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If you are just starting a running program, or you simply love running, you may wonder whether running every day is good for you or not. After all, it would seem reasonable that the more you put in, the more you get out.

As good as that may sound, it overlooks one key point: running places a lot of stress on the body, triggering inflammation and microtears that need time to heal. Without the means to do you, you will end up losing ground rather than gaining it, both in terms of overall performance and the risk of injury.

Why Rest Days Are Important

Most runners need at least one or even two days off from running a week. Research suggests that taking at least one day off a week reduces the frequency of overuse injuries. Some studies show that running six or seven days per week increases your risks, but the evidence was limited.

Take at least one day off per week, giving your body the chance to recover and repair itself. And instead of just running, think about running three to four days per week with one or two cross-training days thrown in.

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 that can sideline you for a week to a month or more.

You'll find that you'll actually feel better and stronger during your runs after a day off. It's also good to take one day off a week to give yourself a mental break. You'll reduce your chances of feeling burned out and bored of running.

Rest Days for Beginners

Beginner runners 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 a cross-training 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 of running 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.

Moreover, rest days can actually help prevent burnout, in part by reducing the amount of cortisol produced during stress. Cortisol, the so-called "stress hormone," can cause depression, fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and other health issues if the physical stress levels are allowed to remain high.

A 2015 review of studies published in PLoS One further 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.

As a rule of thumb, limit your total mileage to no more than 40 miles per week to reduce your risk of injury.

When to Take Rest Days

The best days for rest will depend on what type of runner you are and if you're training for a specific event. If you tend to run a lot of miles on the weekends, 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 for your long run.

It's important to listen to your body and 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.

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