Run for your life

Recreational running not only helps to improve fitness and general health but can also provide the companionship and support of like-minded individuals.

Words: Chris Sheedy

In the late 1970s, when Tim Crosbie first entered the recreational running scene, the sport was going through its first big boom. The second boom, he says, is happening right now, with people of all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds donning their running shoes. In Crosbie’s social running group – The Crosbie Crew – there are 350–400 runners ranging in age from teenagers to late 60s. 

Running is excellent for cardiovascular fitness, and Crosbie says one of the most beneficial aspects of the sport is the general improvement in lifestyle for participants. “They tend to eat more healthily, they lose weight and they give up bad habits in order to perform at a better level each week,” he says.

Accredited Exercise Physiologist Dr Ian Gillam, a Fellow of Sports Medicine Australia, says research has shown that fitness in mid to late life has more of a bearing on longevity than anything else, even weight. 

“Fitness in that period actually adds an average of five years to your life,” says Dr Gillam. “Fitness is by far the most important determinant of long-term health, and running is excellent for cardiac and metabolic health.”

Slow but steady

If you’re considering entering the running scene at an advanced age, or if you’re overweight or have had lower limb injuries, Dr Gillam suggests you first visit your GP or an accredited exercise physiologist to seek advice on how to start your exercise program safely.

Specialists at Sports Medicine Australia’s sports injury prevention program, Smartplay, similarly caution that running is not appropriate for those who are heavily overweight, have significant skeletal misalignment, unstable hips, spinal stress fractures or knee cartilage damage. 

For those who fit into one of these categories, there may be lower-impact activities you can undertake. Dr Gillam says similar health and fitness results can be achieved by brisk walking, swimming or using a stationary bicycle or elliptical cross trainer, as found in gyms.

Crosbie says it always helps to run with a group, so do some research on running clubs in your area. Then, when you feel up to it, book into a major event as a reward for all your hard work. Running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge when it’s closed to traffic or into the MCG when it’s part of the Melbourne Marathon Festival is a great thrill.

“The very best thing about running is the mutual support between participants,” says Crosbie.

“We are people of all ages and all backgrounds running together. Very few are competing against one another. We’re mostly competing against ourselves, which means we can afford to be great friends with those around us, and we can help others out as much as possible. The group will help you advance yourself.”



Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.