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Running 20 minutes a day: Benefits + how to start


Running 20 minutes a day is seen as an achievable goal for many people.

A daily 20-minute run can be transformative. It’s also an enjoyable and sustainable way to become more active and get outdoors more.

We all know that running has many physical and mental benefits, but what about running 20 minutes a day?

In this guide, we’ll look at:

  • Is running 20 minutes a day good for your health?
  • The benefits of running 20 minutes a day
  • Should I run 20 minutes a day if I am already training?
  • How to start running 20 minutes a day


Let’s get going!


Is running 20 minutes a day good for your health?

You may be wondering: “Is running 20 minutes a day good for your health?”

The NHS guidelines state that adults should do some type of physical activity every day.

Adding that adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week – spreading exercise evenly over 4 to 5 days a week, or every day.

The goal is to reduce the time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.

Various studies have shown the links between leading a sedentary lifestyle and cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature mortality.

So by running 20 minutes a day you will be doing a lot to meet, if not exceed, the minimum guidelines set out by health bodies.

If you have any pre-existing health conditions, consult with your healthcare professional before running regularly.

Likewise, if you’re returning to running following an injury or pregnancy and childbirth, consult with your healthcare provider.

Related: How to run your first 2 hour half marathon

running 20 minutes a day

The benefits of running 20 minutes a day

The good news is that running 20 minutes a day can do a lot for your physical and mental health.

So whether you’re looking to lose weight, get fit or simply get outdoors more, running 20 minutes a day is seen as an achievable goal.

Here are the benefits of running 20 minutes a day.

#1 Improves your cardiovascular health

Running is one of the best activities to improve your cardiovascular fitness – in that it strengthens your heart and improves blood circulation.

By running regularly, you will be taking big steps forward to lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

#2 Helps with weight loss

Running is also one of the most effective ways to burn calories, which aids in weight loss and weight management.

Various studies have shown that running, compared to similar aerobic activities like cycling, swimming and walking, burns the most calories per hour.

#3 Improves your mental health

Many people take up running because it helps to reduce stress and anxiety and improves your mood.

Running releases ‘feel good’ hormones, contributing to the elusive runner’s high.

#4 Builds stronger bones

Running is a weight-bearing exercise that helps to strengthen bones, therefore reducing the risk of diseases like osteoporosis.

It also helps to improve muscle and joint health.

#5 Helps to give you a good night’s sleep

Regular exercise is linked to better sleep quality.

By establishing a regular running routine, you will be improving your chances of getting a more restful and deep sleep.

Related: What to expect by running 3 miles a day (and how to start)

running 20 minutes a day

Should I run 20 minutes a day if I am already training?

If you’re training for a race like a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon, then you may be wondering if running 20 minutes a day is the right goal for you.

The truth is, it will all come down to your fitness levels, running experience and training plan.

If you’re a training for a 5k or 10k race, for example, you will be running 3 to 4 times a week already, with training runs ranging from 1-2 miles to 5-6 miles.

Whereas if you’re training for a half marathon or marathon, your mileage each week will be a lot higher and you will be required to run further than 20 minutes on most of your training days.

In order to build your endurance and stamina enough to compete effectively in longer distances, it’s crucial you include a long run in your weekly training routine – typically on a Saturday or Sunday.

It’s also worthwhile including a range of workouts, including strength training, speed training and cross training.

The bottom line? Running 20 minutes a day may be enough if you’re training for shorter distances like the 5k and 10k, it won’t be enough if you’re training for a half marathon or marathon.

Related: Running and your period: Unlock the power of your menstrual cycle

How to start running 20 minutes a day

Here are some tips to help you start running 20 minutes a day.

#1 Invest in some proper running shoes

A good pair of running shoes will go a long way to give your feet the proper support and comfort they need every run.

If you’re unsure about which running shoes to buy, then check out my guide on how to find the right running shoes.

It’s very much a trial and error process, but with the right support in the form of a specialist running shoe shop, you will be able to find the perfect pair!

#2 Start slow and progress gradually

When you first start running, it’s all too tempting to get full steam ahead.

It’s important you start slowly and progress gradually as your endurance and stamina to begin with won’t be at the level you need to be at.

Begin with a combination of walking and running intervals. Gradually increase your running intervals as your stamina improves.

#3 Warm up

Always start each run with a dynamic warm up, especially during the colder months, to prepare your muscles and joints for the run ahead.

A warm up serves as a dress rehearsal for your run.

Aim to include some light jogging as well as some dynamic stretches in your warm up.

You may also want to include some running drills to improve aspects of your running form.

#4 Drink plenty of water

As with any form of fitness routine, it’s essential you stay hydrated to avoid dehydration and support overall health.

Dehydration can negatively affect endurance, strength and anaerobic performance, so it’s important you drink plenty of water before, during and after a run.

#5 Build a sustainable schedule

When it comes to running, building a sustainable schedule that fits in with your busy lifestyle is key.

If you don’t find time to run, you’re never going to be able to motivate yourself to get out of the door each day.

If you work 9-5, then a run in the morning before you start your day may be a good choice.

Whatever time slot you choose, it’s important it works for you so that you are more inclined to do it every day.

#6 Add some variety

Running 20 minutes a day may be fun to begin with, but when you run on the same route day in, day out, it can quickly become boring.

Add some variety into your training routine by varying your route, pace and terrain.

You can also consider incorporating different types of workouts to add intensity and make your workouts more challenging.

Interval training, Fartlek training and tempo running are all great additions to any training routine.

#7 Listen to your body

Lastly, and most importantly, get into the habit of listening to your body to really understand how it feels during a run and after a run.

An injury that begins as a whisper but can quickly become painful and debilitating, so give yourself time to rest and recover during runs (if needed) and in between runs.

Don’t be tempted to run through the pain or ignore rest days.

Related: Fuelling your run: A female runner’s guide to nutrition and running performance

Caroline Geoghegan