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A wise man once said that life should be about pursuing passions. Running is one of those passions that helps us stay healthy. In 2014, Science Daily published a study showing that running after age 50 can actually help you walk as well as people in their 20s. But as many of us have noticed, our joints and muscles begin to tire as we get older. At this point, strength training becomes important for a healthy lifestyle. It helps you reduce symptoms related to heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and obesity. This can include cardio, as well as bodyweight exercises or weights to improve flexibility or balance or condition your muscles. Follow these four tips to keep running well beyond your 50th birthday – and maybe even keep up with those youngsters.

Pay attention to your pain

Joint pain and inflammation is among the top reasons people after 50 give up on running, but you don’t have to fall into this group. Taking proper care of your joints will help ensure they’re able to withstand that jog around the park. An Omega-3 supplement such as GLX3 can help soothe inflammation and keep your joints pain-free. We also recommend regular stretching, especially in the mornings, to keep your joints and muscles from tightening up.

Light strength training, if approved by your doctor, is another key to keeping your joints and muscles healthy. Specifically, there is an up-regulation of testosterone and human growth hormone (anabolic hormones) to help counteract the catabolic effect of running, which breaks down muscle over time. The human body has the tendency to rebuild that muscle very effectively with proper care, keeping inflammation down. This tendency slows down after 50, making strength training and daily Omega-3s important.

Hormones like testosterone (weight lifting triggers higher levels of testosterone) contribute to recovery of muscles faster and efficiently (running does not produce as large a surge of anabolic hormones in comparison to exercises like strength training). Hormone testosterone decreases the impact of catabolic hormones. After a strength-training session, the body is full of muscle-building hormones that help keep your entire body ready for active movement.

Strength training makes bones stronger and it also helps in coordination and balance, which means you are less likely to fall and hurt yourself. Strong and more muscle also means more calories getting burnt when nothing is being done by you and that can help keep off extra pounds. If you can start to view running through the anabolic/catabolic lens, it will make sense that you would want to opt for some strength training to complement your running.

Give your old shoes the boot

Make sure your running shoes are not worn out. This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many runners are still lacing up the same shoes they’ve had for years. Replace them every 6 months or so depending upon the distance and frequency with which you run.

Another quick tip is to look for shoes with a wide toe box. This allows safe distribution of the force of impact every time your feet will hit the ground, preventing excess pressure on your feet and ankles. Ideally, you want a minimum of 1 ½ inches of room between your foot and the tip of the shoe. Look for extra thick heel cushioning in your running shoes as well, as cushioning offers stable feet during repetitive strides on hard, even surfaces. Comfort is key!

Be kind to your joints

The regenerative and positive properties of strength training can’t be overstated. The key for adults 50-plus is to be kind to your joints and smart about strength training. It is important to prioritize full range of motion movement, because with these types of exercises your muscles are able to move and stretch throughout the session. 

All of those fancy upholstered circuit fitness machines should be used minimally, as these have you performing repeated pulling and pushing actions while sitting down, staying in one place. To help your joints, what you really need is to get out of the seated environment and move a little more. Hop, walk, squat, lunge, and jog. Go for full body movements that are not painful and are actually fun to do.

Practice self-care

When it comes to running, or any type of active exercise, days off can be as important as the days you really hit it. On your rest days, soak yourself in a warm Epsom salt bath to relax your sore muscles and loosen those stiff joints. Stretch and, if you’re up for it, practice yoga to improve joint function, reduce arthritis-related pain, and build strength and promote relaxation. Avoid wearing high heels as it puts extra stress on the muscles. Take full advantage of rest days, and eat plenty of proteins and drink lots of water.

These four tips, in addition to a healthy diet and anything recommended by your doctor, will help you to prevent the “ouch!” when hitting the trail or pavement.