Should I run every day? The case for and against

Running is strangely addictive, and you’ll quickly find yourself questioning whether you should take a day off. Is more really better?

More is better, right? So, you’d think the answer to the question “should I run every day?” would be obvious. After all, we live in a society that suggests that more is the way to go. More money, more holidays, more everything.  

And there’s anecdotal evidence to support the “run every day” argument. After all, Ron Hill did exactly that for 52 years and 39 days in a row, and in between ran a 2:09:28 marathon and was still clocking up an hour for 10k in his late seventies. Clearly it didn’t do him any harm. 

The only trouble is, Hill is almost alone when it comes to such extreme achievements. Records are a little sketchy, but there’s probably only four or five people globally who have done that. You’ll know yourself how hard it is to string three days together, so more than half a century and close to 20,000 days in a row is a little unusual – and, as research confirms, counter-productive when it comes to muscle condition. Instead, always think quality over quantity.  

An older woman running in sun along the beachCredit: Shutterstock / iVazoUSky
Running every day is so tempting for all the right reasons

The case for running every day

Hill – who died in 2021 – would have told you that running every day builds confidence, strength and endurance.

It’s difficult to argue with his hard-as-nails approach. He ran road races barefoot, then dug glass out of his heel afterwards, and he regularly completed 30-milers as part of his training. Clearly his mental tenacity was nothing short of amazing and testament to the running career he enjoyed. He won the 1970 Commonwealth Games Marathon, as well as a string of other major titles.

“To me it’s a health thing and I do compete, but I have to accept that I’m slowing down,” Hill said in an interview back in 2014 when he was celebrating 50 years without a break.  

I try to keep fit, so I get the best out of myself when I run a 10k, for instance. I always feel better when I come back from a run

Once you get into the habit of it, you just do it. Just get wrapped up and get out the door. It’s [my] advice to everybody – just start running and within five minutes youre in your stride and probably enjoying it,” he later told the BBC. 

And there is research that will back this up. Early on in his career, running every day meant a lot of miles for Hill; but as he got older that distance reduced, often to just one mile a day. By luck, or judgement, he hit on the right formula. That research says running five to 10 minutes every day at a moderate pace result in improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of all-cause mortality. In short, you’ll live longer. 


The case against running every day

Just as we don’t go to work each and every day, and we’re encouraged to take all of our holidays, so missing days in your running is also hugely important. Recovery is vital when it comes to rebuilding tired muscles. Taking a day or two off after hard work is vital when it comes to building strength and endurance. 

Indeed, when shoe giant Nike suggests that donning its trainers for a daily workout probably isn’t a good idea, that’s worth noting. In fact, Nike confirms, you’ll get worse running every day.

“When you build in proper recovery time, you build cardiovascular fitness. Your body is able to repair itself and get stronger and fitter each time,” Nike’s experts say. “But if you train too frequently, these adaptations can’t occur, and your performance will probably suffer. Your muscles may even atrophy as a result.” 

Nike also talks about the impact on your body and mental wellbeing of committing to a daily programme. It’s obvious when you think about it. Even watching TV every day can be a bit overwhelming. It all cycles back to the idea of recovery. Remember, you need to take time off both mentally and physically for all the training to take effect. 

A woman running at sunset on the beachCredit: Shutterstock / Andrey Burmakin
Running every day can be so memorable

If not every day, how many times a week should I run?

As a coach, I’ve found if running every day becomes a little daunting, use the number three as your guide. That’s how many days a week you need to improve and reap the benefits of running for mental health – and more.  

Of course, highly motivated runners will want to do more and will have to weigh up the pros and cons of what research suggests is excessive exercise. Olympians do exactly that and often struggle with injuries and demotivation after years of intensive training. Risk and reward. 

So, if you’re a similarly super-motivated runner, we’d recommend yoga, strength training, Pilates and swimming for the days when you feel like you should go running but have done your recommended three for the week. For what we’re looking for in terms of running success, that balance is so much more effective. Remember, however, we’re all individuals and without question there will be somebody out there who can run every day with no problem at all. Ask Ron! 

“I ran every day for a year”

I can’t pretend to be Ron Hill, but I did go on a streak of my own sometime in the late 1980s. The fine detail is lost but it was more or less a year, clocking around 80 miles per week. I found I could run that distance relatively easily week in, week out. More would damage me, while less was acceptable for a “rest” week. I have to say, my performances did benefit, and I improved a lot – I even ran a 28-minute 10k road race, which for me was unbelievably fast. And I was really competitive over a wide range of distances, breaking four minutes for the mile three or four times that year.  

But I also recall there was an ever-present sense of doom that it would all end – which it did. Nothing sinister, I just had a cold and couldn’t run. I think, with the power of hindsight, I’d be up for six or eight weeks of uninterrupted work, then two weeks of nothing, then start again. In my defence, in the 1980s we didn’t understand the importance of recovery quite as well as we do today. However, we do recognise its significance now and the role it was to play in improvement, so let’s use it.  

Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins


Paul Larkins has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors.

But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide. In fact, he’s still very competitive. In 2022 he ran in the World Masters’ Mountain Running Champs in the over-55 age group and is now looking forward to moving up a category and taking on the 60-year-olds.

He’s also part of the England Team Management set-up in road running as well as being an England team coach in the U18 age group for track and field athletics. Currently, he coaches a group of athletes ranging from 13 years old to 55 at his local club.

Outside of work, Paul loves cooking and driving classic cars. He’s owned everything from a 1966 Ford F-250 pickup to a clapped-out 1987 Porsche 944. He’s married to Elaine and they have a West Highland White Terrier named Benji, who’s not that keen on being timed for every run!