Running is free, you can do it anywhere, and it burns more calories than any other mainstream exercise.
Regular running can reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.
It’s not surprising that running is the latest fitness craze, with Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson and Katie Price among the celebrities who love it.
This guide is designed to make running a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and to provide you with tips on how to stay motivated.
Before you start
If you feel out of shape, or you're recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, see your GP before you start running.
If you’ve not been active for a while, you may want to build your fitness levels gently with our guide to walking for health before you move on to running.
Running requires very little equipment, but a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type will reduce the risk of injury.
There are many types of trainers on the market, so get advice from a specialist running retailer who will assess your foot and find the right shoe for you.
The shoes’ shock absorbers weaken over time, increasing your risk of injury. It’s advisable to replace running shoes every 300 miles (482km).
Plan your runs. Work out when and where (the exact route and time) you're going to run and put it in your diary. That way, it won’t slip your mind.
To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it’s essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.
Start each run with a gentle warm-up of at least five minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs.
Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable (anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes).
Once you can walk for 30 minutes easily, include some running intervals of one to two minutes into your walking at a speed that feels comfortable.
As time goes on, make the running intervals longer, until you're running for 30 minutes continuously.
Run with your arms and shoulders relaxed, and elbows bent. Keep an upright posture and a smooth running stride, striking the ground with the middle of your foot.
Give yourself a few minutes to cool down (to bring your heartbeat back to normal) after each run by walking followed by gently stretching your leg muscles. Try our post-run stretch routine.
Regular running for beginners means getting out at least twice a week. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus.
It’s better to run twice a week, every week, than to run half a dozen times one week and then do no running for the next three weeks.
We have produced a series of podcasts to help absolute beginners get into running. Our Couch to 5K programme is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks.
- Improve your running
If you're looking to improve your running, why not try the NHS Choices 5K+ running podcasts. Each podcast in the series provides a structured run with running music and coaching to develop your running technique, speed and stamina.
- Set yourself a goal
Whatever your level, setting challenges is useful to stay motivated. Training for a race, such as a 5K, or a charity run is a good way to keep going. Find a running event using our run finder or parkrun.
- Run with a friend
It really helps to have someone about the same level of ability as you to run with. You’ll encourage each other when you’re not so keen to run. You'll feel you don't want to let your running partner down, and this will help motivate you.
- Keep a diary
Keep a diary of your runs. Note down each run, including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt. That way, whenever your motivation is flagging, you can look back and be encouraged by how much you've improved.
- Mix it up
Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances and routes.
- Join a club
A running club is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most clubs have running groups for different levels, including beginners. Clubs are also a great way to find running partners to run with outside of club sessions.