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Those in their 50s can benefit from jogging.
Getting older brings a mind-boggling variety of physical challenges, but that doesn't mean you have to face them from a rocking chair. Staying active not only helps reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancers, but regular exercise is good for the brain and helps maintain firm muscles and supple skin. Jogging is one of the simplest forms of exercise to enjoy because it requires very little equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Even better, you can set your own pace, which allows you to set, reach and exceed goals in a way that is both challenging and comfortable.
You can start jogging at 55 or even older if you start slowly and follow basic safety rules.
Getting Geared Up
The only truly crucial running gear you need is good-quality, well-fitting shoes. Don't just grab a pair of generic sneakers at your local big-box store. Go to a sports store and find an employee who knows how to fit running shoes.
Your feet swell when you jog, so wear the same kind of socks that you intend to run in and shop in the late afternoon or evening. Your foot should be able to move a little bit in every direction inside the shoe, and you need at least a thumb's width of room between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. Put both shoes on and jog around the store a little bit to make sure they're comfortable.
If you're a woman, you'll need a sturdy support bra to keep your breasts both supported and nearly immovable. Women larger than a generous C-cup often find it more comfortable to wear two running bras, a tighter one next to their skin with one that offers more coverage on top of it.
The type of running clothes you choose is a matter of personal preference, so you may have to try several different styles until you find what works for you. Breathable fabrics that wick sweat away from your skin are generally a good choice. Make sure that whatever you wear doesn't bind or chafe, because what's annoying for a few seconds can become unbearable on a longer run.
Starting Out Slowly
If you've never run before, the best way to start is by taking a brisk walk three to five times per week. Walk for 15 minutes, then turn around and come back. Once you can do so comfortably, map out a 1-mile route and walk that briskly three to five times per week.
Start jogging using the interval method. Walk 10 steps and then run 10 steps. Increase the number of steps you run as soon as you get comfortable with the pace you've set. Walk 10 steps and run 20, then walk 10 steps and run 30 and so on until you can jog the entire mile without walking at all.
Make sure you keep your knees over your toes and your midsection tucked in. Be extra careful if running on an uneven surface because it may take longer to recover from a fall if you're over 55.
Picking Up the Pace
Time yourself jogging your 1-mile route once you can run it comfortably. Try to increase your time by one to two minutes per week. When you're jogging at the fastest pace you're happy with, increase your route to 1.5 miles. You may have to slow your pace until you get used to the longer route, but that's OK.
Keep decreasing your time and increasing your mileage until you can easily run 3.5 miles at a pace of 10 minutes per mile or less if you like a challenge. If not, jogging for 30 minutes at a pace comfortable enough for conversation at least three times every week is enough to help clear your head, strengthen your bones, increase circulation and elevate your mood, all of which become more important as you age.
Running Your First Race
Running a 5k, or 3.1-mile, race can be more a social event than an athletic one, and that's why they're such a good idea for new joggers. Most communities have several different fun runs, often to benefit a charity. Some are simple runs, while others add an extra bit of flair by squirting you with non-toxic colored paint at each mile mark or encouraging runners to participate while wearing themed costumes.
Do your research, because there are also 5k runs designed for professional runners, such as California's Carlsbad 5000 race. Generally, though, a 5k is accessible for everyone. Many 5ks have special lanes for younger children, strollers and wheelchairs, and many also allow people to walk the course rather than run it. Some races group people according to age, so you won't have to worry about being trampled by faster, younger joggers.
Tips and Hints
If at all possible, train yourself to run with a water bottle in your hand. This is especially useful if you live in a very hot or dry climate. Dehydration can be more dangerous as you age, so carrying water is a good idea.
Always wear a sunblock with a sun protection factor of 75 or higher if you jog during the day, even on cloudy days. Sunburn can be a real danger for thinner, aging skin.
Trim your toenails, because longer ones can be damaged by smacking up against the inside of your running shoe at every step. As with any type of injury, a bruised toenail can take longer to heal when you're older.