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Jogging down the road to better health

By Lila Havens
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Been walking for exercise and want more challenge? Try jogging. It’s a slower form of running that’s a good next step up the fitness ladder.

Jogging has all the health benefits of walking. It:

  • Strengthens the heart and blood vessels
  • Improves muscle tone and strength
  • Relieves stress
  • Can reduce the risk of a variety of health problems, including osteoporosis, high blood pressure and diabetes

The big advantage of jogging over walking is that it takes less time to get the same benefits, so it’s a more efficient way to achieve cardiovascular fitness. It also burns more calories, so it can help control your weight.

Because it’s a high-impact activity, jogging puts more strain on muscle and joints than walking. As a result, the risk of injury is greater. But with proper shoes and preparation, you can greatly reduce your risk of injury and muscle soreness.

Like walking, jogging can be done almost anywhere, anytime, and you can do it alone or with a friend. If you use a treadmill, you can keep jogging even in the worst weather.

First things first

See your doctor for a checkup before you start this or any exercise program. This is advised whether you’re young, old or in between. A physical exam can ensure that you have no health problems that might surface during activity. Tell your doctor of your specific exercise plans and goals.

Getting your doctor’s OK is especially important if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Have a family history of heart disease
  • Smoke now or used to smoke
  • Are older than 60
  • Have been inactive
  • Have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or other medical conditions

Getting started

It’s possible to spend a small fortune on sports attire, but all you really need to buy is a good pair of running shoes. Well-fitted shoes can help prevent soreness, injuries and blisters. Put on comfortable clothing, socks and running shoes, and you’re ready to go.

Start out by walking briskly for a couple of weeks, then start to alternate walking with jogging. For example, you could jog for 30 to 60 seconds and then walk for five minutes. Repeat that sequence for a total of 20 minutes. Do this three days a week, with rest days in between.

Little by little, increase the time you jog and decrease the time you walk. Increase your time gradually. Experts usually suggest an increase of only 10 percent a week to avoid burnout or injury.

Follow these tips for safe and healthy jogging:

  • Warm up with 5 or 10 minutes of walking, then do some light stretching. Walk after jogging to cool down.
  • Keep your head level, your back straight and your shoulders down and relaxed.
  • Bend your elbows and let your arms swing naturally at your side.
  • Land on your heel, then roll onto the ball of your foot and push off with your toes.
  • You should be able to carry on a conversation while jogging. If you are gasping, switch back to walking.
  • In hot weather, carry a water bottle or hydration back pack to prevent dehydration.

SOURCES:

  • American Council on Exercise. Healthy hydration. Accessed: 03/11/2009
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Tips for a safe running program. Accessed: 12/09/2008
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Running and jogging injuries. Accessed: 12/09/2008

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