Running and fitness
Our sister site Fit50.info is devoted entirely to running and fitness for men and women over 40.
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Is running good for 50 year olds?
Ben, 55, started running on his 40th birthday and he's been running ever since. He hasn't missed many days through injury, though he does take one day off a week for his body to rest and recover. Here, he lists all the benefits of distance running.
I am not going to give you a huge chunk of academic research listing all the benefits of distance running. I'm just going to bullet list all the ways that running has helped me through the past 15 years of my life.
I am 55 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, and I weigh 155 pounds. I have regular physicals and the medical professionals say I am in excellent health. At my last medical, the doctor looked at me and said quick as a flash, "You're a runner, right?" That made me feel good. Serious runners have a look about them, a lean, honed physique that is different from the body you get by pumping iron. OK, so here's my list of why running is great for you:
I have lost 30 pounds by running 40 to 55 miles a week every week for the past 15 years. As a 40 year old inactive office worker I weighed 185 pounds, which isn't huge by today's standards but it sure felt to me like overweight. Now I'm slim, or thin, depending on who you ask to describe me.
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It's the running rather than a controlled diet that keeps my weight down. I eat well, which means I eat a lot, but I eat sensibly. I eat very little junk food. I drink small amounts of beer, a glass of wine now and again, nothing more and nothing stronger than that.
Being light, or slim, is good for your body. It places less stress on your joints -- there isn't so much of you to carry around -- and it places less of a burden on your heart and lungs.
If you want a great resource about running and how to get into it as an older runner, I thoroughly recommend the books by Bob Glover: 'The runner's handbook', The Competitive Runner's Handbook: The Bestselling Guide to Running 5Ks through Marathons and 'The runner's training diary'.
Strong heart and lungs
Distance running is incredible for your heart. An average male adult has a heart rate of about 70 beats a minute. As a result of running, your heart becomes much stronger, it doesn't have to pump as often to supply your body with blood. My heart rate is about 45 beats per minute. Elite long distance runners in their 20s can have rates as low as 30 beats per minute.
As a result of a decade and a half of running, my lungs have become very good at supplying my mind and body with oxygen. I never get out of breath in daily life, which does happen a lot if you're overweight and don't exercise.
Resistance to stress
I work in the psychologically stressful field of advertising. It's a world of long hours, quick decisions, lots of money at stake, and a high burnout rate. If you're not in good shape, advertising can be a cruel world for over 40s.
After a long day, I can be wound tight like a spring. Lots of my peers use alcohol as an outlet; they say it takes the edge off. I prefer to put on my running shoes and hit the streets. After five to eight miles of gentle running, there's not one shard of stress left in my mind. I feel tremendously relaxed, totally at ease, and any lingering fragments of frustration or anger have been chased away.
Plenty of people in advertising and the creative professions are great at spitting out ideas all day long. But they often lack the focus required to follow through on their ideas. They're unable to wrap up all the details. I'm sure many of them have attention deficit, or at least shadows of it.
Running and aerobic exercise have been proven to boost production of brain chemicals that aid focus and concentration. If you run before work, you will be much more attentive to detail, more able to focus on vital details.
Or you can wait to run at lunch time, which will help you through the afternoon and stave off post-lunch tiredness. In short, running keeps you alert.
Not only does running work wonders for your brain chemistry, it teaches you the value of discipline and commitment.
If you're going to get any good at running -- either as a competitive runner or as someone who simply enjoys distance running -- you have to put in hours and miles of training.
You won't get far if you start skipping training sessions or shortening them, or not taking them seriously. You learn to build discipline into your life so that even if it's cold or raining or you're really tired, you still run. You're so aware of the long term benefits of running, you're able to overlook and overcome all the minor obstacles along the way.
This deserves its own heading because depression is such a massive problem today. Many of us know friends and colleagues who can't cope without their happy pills.
In modern industrial nations, you are measured by your ability to bring home the bacon, to be productive under stress, work long hours, cope with minimal leisure time, the absence of family time, not to mention setbacks at work, conflicts, lack of a promotion you might have been expecting. Add to this the burdens imposed on mind and body by bad eating habits and lack of exercise and it's a time bomb ticking away.
Heart attacks, stress, and depression are just three of the results. Depression can be completely debilitating, wiping out your enjoyment of life, your self-esteem, and your ability to cope with setbacks.
Running is not the wonder cure for all depression but it will most definitely help you resist it. Running helps you both to focus and relax. It makes you feel good about yourself, and it assists your body's ability to ward off physical and emotional wear and tear.
Resistant to injury and illness
There's a fine line between training enough and too much. Lots of runners get injured because they don't know when to stop, or cut back on, running.
If you are aware of how much training your body needs or can take, you will be incredibly strong and resistant to many of the bugs, ailments, and illnesses that afflict unfit people. I find myself less prone to colds, and I usually escape the bugs that knock many people out for a few days a year.
This isn't only down to running, but running is part of my overall healthy lifestyle which includes eating well, not smoking, not drinking much alcohol, resistance to stress, and adequate rest and sleep.
This is worth a headline of its own. Distance runners are usually relaxed, unstressed people who sleep well. We can't overestimate the benefits of a good night's sleep for fighting illness, stress, and depression.
How fast can you run a mile at 50?
If you're 50, normal weight, and untrained, you should be able to run a mile in 9 minutes. After three months of training, you should be down to 8 minutes. After six months, you should be capable of 7 mins 15 sex. After two years of serious training without injury, you should be close to six minutes.
There's a part of a man's anatomy that is instrumental in his enjoyment of sex and which requires a good supply of blood for it to work. Running gives you a strong heart, able to supply oxygen-rich blood where it is needed. Long distance running is a natural form of Viagra for us older guys. The benefits of running are felt by women, too. It supplies blood to areas where it is needed for arousal and sexual enjoyment.
I have no doubt that I get treated better, and am appreciated more, by men and women because I'm in good shape. People trust a person who takes care of him or herself.
I don't think this is an indication of superficial values. It stands to reason, if you look healthy, you are healthy, more able to perform in the workplace, more likely to be productive, more able to stay the course in times of adversity.
As a result of looking good, you get treated better by people-- they want to know you, they want to know how you're able at 50 to be lean, alert, and in tune with your surroundings.
By Ben Foster
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