Not Sure You’re Cut Out for Running? 5 Myths Busted

The truth behind some common misconceptions

Not Sure You're Cut Out for Running? 5 Myths Busted

While you likely know there are many benefits to lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement for a run, you may hear things that make you wonder whether running is really right for you.

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You don’t have to run a marathon to appreciate the health benefits of running. Running is great exercise because it can improve your heart health, reduce your risk of high blood pressure and improve your the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood.

Not only is running good for your body, but it can improve your mental health and mood, decrease depression and anxiety and improve and preserve cognitive functioning.

But you often hear people say running for exercise also is hard on your body. And do you really have to drive yourself to get out there every day, and cover longer and longer distances?

Myths about running persist. Below are the facts to bust five common misconceptions about running.

Myth 1: Running is bad for your knees

No studies or research show that running is bad for your knees.

However, if you have osteoarthritis or other types of knee pain, you might need to make some adjustments. For instance, you can run on a more forgiving surface, such as softer trails or a running track instead of cement or pavement.

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Myth 2: You have to run every day to improve

Research shows that you need to run two to three times per week to get any progressive benefit from it.

Of course, it also depends on your goal. If you’re running to prepare for a marathon, 10K or 5K race, you certainly want to increase your frequency. However, if your focus is to improve your overall health, remember to do 150 minutes of activity per week.

This means that if you incorporate running into your overall fitness program, you can run 20 minutes a day three days a week, as long as you’re getting another 90 minutes of exercise the rest of the week. 

Myth 3: Mileage is the only thing that matters

Again, if you’re training for a marathon, duration is one of the fundamental variables of training.

However, if running is part of your overall wellness routine, then it doesn’t matter how far you run. The important thing is getting up off your couch and being more active.

Myth 4: Static stretches are best before you run

Dynamic stretching is a more beneficial warm-up exercise than a static stretch.

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Touching your toes with your fingertips while standing is the classic static stretch. Sure, it may help you feel loose and limber, but your muscles will be less elastic and more susceptible to an injury. Dynamic stretching better prepares your body.

The best dynamic stretch for a runner is a knee-to-chest exercise (it resembles your running stride and warms up the muscles you’ll use):

  • While standing, lift your knee toward your chest, then point your foot toward the ground.
  • Hug your shin as you bring your knee up so your knee cap rests against your chest.
  • Alternate each leg.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Myth 5: Runners can eat whatever they want

This is a big misconception. You can’t eat what you want just because you’re running and burning more calories. You still need a well-balanced diet and you need to watch your caloric intake.

A poor diet can compromise your immune system and trigger illness and infection. Eat more foods high in vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, selenium, iron, and folic acid — fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Talk to your doctor before you hit the road 

While running is great exercise, we highly recommend speaking with your primary care physician before beginning an exercise program. He or she may have some suggestions on a running routine that suits your needs and any possible limitations.

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Christopher Travers, MS

Christopher Travers, MS, is an exercise physiologist on staff for both Cleveland Clinic Sports Health and Cleveland Clinic Executive Health.