How Much Should You Run to Be in Shape?

Running is arguably one of the most effective and popular aerobic exercises people take up to whip themselves into shape. Exactly how much running you personally have to do to be in good physical condition is based on your current fitness level and the intensity of your runs. Other types of regular physical activity besides running also help you get into shape. Ultimately, being in shape is about you feeling good physically and mentally.

A mature couple jogging in autumn. (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Frequency

One of the keys to get into shape is exercising regularly. Running once a week is not going to help improve your fitness very much. Start slowly and dedicate one to two days per week to running if your are a beginner, then increase the frequency. An active runner runs between three to five times a week. Depending on the intensity of your runs, running on consecutive days may be OK. After strenuous runs, take a day off and allow your body to recover before you hit the pavement again.

Intensity

While running three times a week doesn't sound strenuous, the intensity of those runs can make them challenging. Vary the types of runs you do to keep your body from physically plateauing. Changing up the pace and terrain you run on adds new dynamics to your workout that engage your body in different ways. To keep things interesting, incorporate hills, trails and distance. Also try tempo running, in which you run segments at various paces. For example, the first 15 minutes are run at a 10-minutes-per-mile pace, while the following 10 minutes are run at an eight-minute-per-mile pace.

Time

One goal for many runners as they improve is to increase the distances of runs while improving their pace. Challenge yourself by making time goals as your fitness level improves. As you get used to the workout, your pace will likely be slow. For example, it might take you around 12 minutes to run a mile. Within a few months, you may be able to run three miles within 30 minutes. Set a goal to match this pace if you are training for a 5k or 10k race.

Exercise Variety

The road to getting into shape takes different turns for everyone. Running -- one of many different aerobic activities you can take up -- is an important aspect of improving your fitness. It should not, however, be the only exercise you rely on to achieve your goals. Anaerobic activities, such as strength training, and a nutritious diet, are also important. A well-balanced fitness plan includes all these elements, and making it a part of your lifestyle will help you improve your cardiovascular endurance and strength.

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