Running among boomers has become more popular as they discover its social, physical and mental health benefits.
Boomers accounted for 33 percent of men and 24 percent of women who finished a race in the United States in 2010, according to the magazine Running USA. Locally, 23 percent of Run Wild Missoula’s 1,300 members are boomers.
Participation in U.S. running races reached an all-time high of 13 million in 2010 because of its health and social benefits, convenience and affordability. All one needs to go for a run is a good pair of shoes. In Missoula, we’re fortunate to have an accessible trail system and safe sidewalks and streets on which to recreate.
Boomers who want to start running should begin with approval from their health care provider. It is always best to start with a short distance and go slowly. Many beginners start out walking or with a run-walk-run to prevent fatigue, burnout and injury. Increase mileage no more than 10 percent each week.
Running does not have to be a big time commitment; as little as 30 minutes a day can improve one’s health. Running is also one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and can be an excellent way to maintain a healthy weight.
JB Yonce, 65, says he didn’t even know how long a marathon was a few years ago when his niece started training for the Missoula Marathon and lost 50 pounds. She inspired him to do the same, and in two short years he has lost weight, competed in seven marathons and has maintained youthfulness as a result. “Staying 50 when in our 60s can be best achieved when getting exercise,” he conveys.
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Christine Everett, 60, started running regularly seven years ago to stay in shape. Since then she has completed five marathons and running has become part of her healthy lifestyle. “Running is so rewarding, even on daily runs when you may not feel like going out,” Everett says. “But you do, and at the end of the run you feel a real sense of accomplishment.”
Although many older runners enjoy longer distances like marathons, participating in shorter races like 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons can be just as satisfying, and the training is not as time-consuming.
Runners who participate in races or set other goals find that running can also have substantial mental health benefits. Goals such as completing a race, running a certain number of miles or minutes each week, or a time goal such as qualifying for the Boston Marathon (the qualifying times are slower for older age groups) can help runners stay on track and boost confidence.
The social aspect of running is appealing to people of all ages, but can be especially pleasing to new retirees or boomers looking for a way to make exercise fun. Beginner and seasoned runners alike can benefit from joining a running club or training program to find runners of a similar pace who often turn into lifelong friends.
Missoula’s running club, Run Wild Missoula, offers races, group runs and training programs for runners and walkers of all ages and abilities. Slower runners and walkers have found friendship and support through Run Wild Missoula’s Back of the Pack program. More information can be found at www.runwildmissoula.
Yonce attributes his dedication to running to being involved with Run Wild Missoula. “Joining a running group has made the commitment enjoyable, as I am running with others with similar goals,” he says.
Boomers won’t likely compete with 20- and 30-year-old runners, but they can compete with themselves or strive to place in their age group. “I believe I am more fit now than I have been at any other time in my life,” Everett remarks. “I very much enjoy competing – primarily with myself – and pushing myself. I still think I can get better in my age group, and this is fun!”
Booming features a monthly column by a member of the Missoula City-County Health Department in order to assist Missoula baby boomer residents to be healthy and resilient. Eva Dunn-Froebig is the executive director of Run Wild Missoula and a lifelong runner. She can be reached at 544-3150 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about Run Wild Missoula is available at www.runwildmissoula.org.