Running 1 mile a day is gaining popularity online: How it can improve your health
Running a mile per day for a 30-day period has become a popular fitness challenge among workout enthusiasts and beginners.
Content creators on visual platforms, such as YouTube and TikTok, have documented their attempts and quantifiable results with millions of viewers, which have inspired many to partake in the challenge, according to comments and response videos shared on social media.
Fitness experts agree that participating in a running-focused fitness challenge certainly has health benefits, including cardiovascular improvements and potential weight loss, but there are risks that must be weighed before exercisers start an ambitious running program.
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Here’s what new and experienced runners should know if they’re planning to start a 30-day running challenge or a daily running routine – from biological processes to physiological changes and mental health benefits.
Running improves cardiac output, lung function and more
Chris Hinshaw of Cookeville, Tennessee, a running coach who trains CrossFit competitors and founded the endurance coaching website AerobicCapacity.com, said there are many positives that come from a daily running routine.
The “top health takeaways” that come with running a mile per day include an improved heart and cardiovascular system, a stronger and more efficient muscular system and increased aerobic capacity (AKA VO2 max – the maximum rate of oxygen a body utilizes during exercise) by up to 20%, according to Hinshaw.
Other potential benefits a new runner could experience include improved quality of life and longer lifespan, reduced risk of diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and improved mental health and sleep quality, Hinshaw said.
“Running a mile a day may lead to an increase in red blood cell volume, which can result in an additional increase in the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity,” Hinshaw told Fox News Digital.
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“As the heart gets stronger, stroke volume increases, enabling the heart to pump more oxygen-carrying blood,” he continued. “This can result in lower heart rates because the heart becomes more efficient. In addition, capillary building and mitochondria density increase, allowing for greater energy production.”
Hinshaw said it’s important for new runners to control their speed and limit intensity during a one-mile run because bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues need time to adjust to faster speeds.
He recommends the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method – subtracting one’s age from 180 heart rate – to determine the appropriate run intensity for a new runner if laboratory testing isn’t available.
“Assuming the runner progresses normally, we must ultimately vary the stimulus of their workouts to drive additional adaptations and reduce the risk of injuries from running at the same repetitive pace,” Hinshaw said.
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Routine changes runners can add to improve performance and sustain progress include increasing speed over time, varying speeds during a mile run, running intervals, using weights or running on hills and pursuing a maximum effort mile, according to Hinshaw.
Running nourishes muscles, breaks down glucose and lowers cholesterol
William Toro, a Seattle-based personal trainer and rehabilitation therapist at Welcyon, a health club franchisor made for adults over 50, said running a mile per day can yield “fantastic physiological changes” and tests a person’s determination.
“It will improve cardio-respiratory fitness because it forces your cardiac muscle and lungs to work harder, which leads to an increase in lung capacity,” Toro told Fox News Digital. “By the end of this course, you will realize your resting heart rate has gone down, which is a good health sign.”
Daily running often leads to more oxygen and nutrients being pumped to the blood and muscles, Toro noted.
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“Your body will adapt how you can recruit type-two muscle fibers in a much more efficient way, you’ll be able to utilize stored glycogen and activate your anaerobic glycolysis system,” he said.
Other health benefits runners see include balanced stress levels, improved breathing, lowered water retention, strengthen ligaments and bones, maintained blood pressure and cholesterol levels and lower rates of depression, according to Toro.
Tips Toro offers new runners include running at a comfortable pace, taking breaks when needed, focusing on completion, picking appropriate footwear and practicing pre- and post-run stretching.
Pre-run stretches should be “active,” “dynamic” and last for about “five minutes,” according to Toro. The knees, ankles and hips are areas that reportedly require mobility stretches for two to three minutes.
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“When you are done with your run, perform a good cooldown static stretch, which will squeeze out the lactic acid,” Toro said.
You get better the more you do it
Nick Bare, an Army Infantry veteran, fitness author and influencer from Texas who has more than 2 million followers, said running a 30-day one-mile challenge might sound daunting to someone unfamiliar with cardiovascular training. Still, it could provide a “life-changing experience.”
“To put the distance in perspective, one mile is about 1,500 steps,” Bare told Fox News Digital. “You may have heard about the recommended 10,000 steps a day, so 1,500 is a relatively small portion of that.”
A month of single-mile runs is unlikely to yield “significant results,” but it’s an exercise regimen that can become a regular and more challenging routine, Bare said.
“A meta-analysis published in 2015 found that after one year of running, individuals reduced body mass, resting heart rate and triglycerides,” he added.
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Running has also been found to significantly increase maximal oxygen uptake, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and confidence, according to Bare, the founder and CEO of Bare Performance Nutrition, a supplement and fitness apparel company.
Over-training isn’t a major concern for mile-long runs, though soreness can occur for people who are new to the activity, Bare said.
“If you are brand-new to running and one mile straight isn’t doable, that’s OK,” he continued. “Begin with a run-walk approach by running as long as you can, taking a break to walk and then picking up running again when you feel ready. [This] strategy is a great way to get started and also allows you to ease into the new style of training.”
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Katie Butler, a Tampa-based head trainer at the Orangetheory Fitness club in Tampa, Florida, said it’s important to consult a doctor before making “dramatic changes” to one’s health routine, and this includes running a mile per day.
“Some pros of starting a running challenge like this include lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol levels, improved body mass index (BMI) and lean body muscle tissue, while also improving one’s resting heart rate,” Butler told Fox News Digital.
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She noted that lower resting heart rates have been “linked to lengthened longevity and overall health” in research studies.
“One could expect to see some weight loss as well as improved stress levels and improved sleep,” Butler added.
Butler warned that new runners should be mindful of their running gait, the way a person’s running stance and foot swing work together, and their nutritional needs.
“One could potentially feel hungrier as well due to the increased caloric output of the exercise, so it is important to stay hydrated with plenty of water and electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium,” Butler said.
Shin splints and soreness are a possibility
Rachel MacPherson, a Nova Scotia-based personal trainer, pain-free performance specialist and expert panelist at Garage Gym Reviews, an at-home fitness resource, said mile-a-day running challengers should think of their fitness level before they begin.
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“Everyone starts somewhere, and pushing yourself too hard too fast can result in common injuries and complaints like shin splints and soreness,” MacPherson told Fox News Digital.
MacPherson recommends running for a few minutes and slowing to a walk until one’s heart rate and breathing steadies before attempting to run again.
“Each day, try to run a bit longer with shorter walking periods,” MacPherson said. “Soon enough, you will be running the entire mile. If you are new to running, don’t worry about your speed, just focus on breathing correctly and taking your time.”
MacPherson added that running challenges can be motivating and help someone build a routine, but people should make sure they’re not being hard on themselves.
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“If you miss a day, don’t be discouraged and quit completely,” she said. “Just pick up where you started and keep going.”
Improve blood sugar regulation and calorie burning
Matt Claes, the founder and head coach at Weight Loss Made Practical, a personalized weight loss coaching company headquartered in Mechelen, Belgium, said running a mile per day can result in a variety of internal processes that may make a person stronger and fitter over time.
“Some results you can expect from this running challenge include better leg muscle endurance, stronger joints, better cardiovascular health, meaning one gets out of breath less easily, better insulin sensitivity, meaning better blood sugar regulation and better bone density,” Claes said.
Running is a physical exercise that burns calories, and when combined with healthy eating habits, it can result in weight loss, according to Claes.
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“A 155-pound person will burn around 127 calories when running a mile at about 5.2 mph,” Claes said.
Claes warned that running a mile per day, even for 30 days, can be too hard on people who are inactive or injury-prone.
Twisting an ankle is a possible injury new runners can experience when surrounding muscles aren’t strong enough to support a distance run.
Claes recommends other cardiovascular workouts like cycling, swimming, the elliptical and similar gym machines for inexperienced or injury-prone runners because these options are likely to “help you get in shape with less injury risk.”
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“As your body gets stronger over time, you can consider switching over to running a mile a day in a safer way,” Claes said.