Speed isn’t everything. Sometimes it can be beneficial to reduce the stress of running and mix things up by slow jogging.
Lower intensity exercise brings many benefits, from injury prevention and aiding recovery, to simply injecting a little variation into cardio workouts. Having started running again in my 40s, I feel the benefits of jogging at a slow pace now more than ever.
With slow jogging’s many benefits, it should be part of an effective training regime, for competitive and average runners alike. Alternatively, slow jogging is a good starting point for anyone taking up running and looking to build up their fitness, stamina and confidence.
What is slowing jogging?
Pace is relative to each runner, according to overall fitness levels. “Slow jogging” or “Slow running” is generally considered to be a low effort pace that can be comfortably held for some time.
A slow jog can be quantified in a number of ways:
- an effort level of 5, where 1 is zero effort and 10 is a rapid sprint
- 3-4 minutes per mile slower than your marathon or a half marathon pace
- 50-70 percent of your maximum heart rate
- midpoint between fast walking and slow running
How often should you go slow jogging?
Depending on your training program and running goals, the majority of your runs should constitute slow jogging.
Slow jogging builds your aerobic core and a more efficient running form, so slowing down on base runs, long runs and recovery runs can bring many health and race benefits. Run slow to ultimately run further and faster.
How long should you slow jog for?
Running a medium-distance run (60-90 minutes) at a slower pace allows your body to build lower body strength without any physical discomfort or stress.
What are the main slow jogging benefits?
#1: Slow running adds variety to training
Always running at the same speed not only limits your overall progress, it also quickly leads to boredom.
The cure is “Polarized training” – mixing up your intensity, versus sticking to the same training regime again and again. So running slowly one day, and going all out the next. Or finding a running partner or joining a road runners club for one run per week, compared to running solo.
#2: Slow jogging is good for active recoveries
Active Recovery Jogging can speed up recovery from intense exercise sessions or longer distances when tired muscles can experience delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS). This stiffness will otherwise often prove debilitating for a few days post-training. All it takes is a gentle jog at 30-60% of your maximum heart rate to loosen up and flush toxins from the body.
Other active recovery activities include walking, swimming, cycling, yoga or light stretches.
#3: Running slow prevents injuries
When you run at a leisurely, comfortable pace, you’re far less likely to injure yourself. This is because you’re going easier on your joints, muscles, and connective tissues, while also strengthening your lower body muscles.
Slow jogging benefits an all-round workout of your lower body muscular systems. The gastrocnemius and soleus, power the calves and are responsible for lifting the heel and pushing you forward. Meanwhile, the quads and gluteal muscles act as an anchor for your pelvis to stabilize movement, particularly during the float phase when both feet are off the ground.
The quadriceps (or thigh muscle) dictate your stride and ability to run uphill, while your hamstrings are responsible for force production in the push-off phases. Running also works core muscles like the obliques and rectus abdominis, to help stabilize the lumbar spine and reduce compressive forces in the spine.
Beginner runners are advised to start with smaller jogs, building up these muscles and refining your overall running technique.
Related Reading: How to Get Back Into Running
#4: A slow runner builds stamina and endurance
One of the biggest slow jogging benefits is to ready the body for more intense exercises. This takes hold on two fronts: stamina and endurance.
While stamina is key for sprinting events, endurance is required for longer distances (e.g. marathons or running Hadrian’s Wall as I did in 2021). However, preparing you body’s ability for longer runs won’t happen overnight. It can take 4-6 weeks of regular exercise to notice changes in your aerobic ability and for the actual training benefit to be felt.
#5: Slow jogging improves your aerobic fitness
Physical exercise, no matter how far or how fast, works wonders for your cardiovascular health – that is, the health of your heart and blood vessels.
This isn’t a one time hit. Research publishes in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggests that regularly jogging delivers lifelong health benefits.
It found that participants had a 30% lower risk of early death from heart disease and circulatory conditions and a 27% lower risk of early death from any cause.
💌 Learn Runner Psychology… in 5 Mins a Month
#6: Slow runs can transform mental health
Physical activity is not just great for your body, it is kind on your mind.
Regularly putting on your running shoes and opting to immerse yourself in nature takes you to an otherwise unreachable place of happiness. You’ll reduce stress, depression and anxiety, get more fresh air, and use running to improve your thinking and creative problem solving.
What’s more, the restorative mental well being benefits of jogging sessions can stay with you long after you’ve physically recovered.
#7: A slow run burns calories and body fat
Running is an insanely efficient calorie burner.
At lower intensities of exercise, the muscles are able to burn fatty acids to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) rather than rely on stored glycogen (carbs), helping you to lose weight more effectively. Even the leanest frames have enough body fat to fuel countless hours of exercise.
One 30 minute jog kickstarts your metabolism and burns between 200-500 calories. Excuse the running pun, but that’s a fantastic step forwards to any weight loss goal. Coupled with a healthy diet, jogging works like a dream for positive overall weight management.
As the pace picks up, so too calorie burning —up to 10 more calories per minute per mile.
#8: A slow run strengthens your immune system
It’s a myth that working out wears you down and makes you more susceptible to getting sick, but that’s not true of more moderate exercise.
Frequent exercise (1-5 days per week) actually strengthens your body’s response to illnesses and viral infections, according to research published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology. Another study in the British Medical Journal found jogging helps to reduce the risk of cold and other respiratory infections by up to 50%. Upper respiratory symptoms were also 32-41% less severe among those who engaged in frequent exercise compared to those who rarely exercised.
The optimal workout session for immune-boosting benefits is said to be 60 minutes or less. Momentum is important too. Undertaking moderate exercise daily, your immune and metabolic systems grows, building on previous gains before they’re lost.
So, start jogging and let its many health benefits roll in!
#9: Low intensity exercise can be more fun
One of exercise’s most extraordinary functions is to release endorphins. The brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters otherwise known as a ‘runner’s high’.
When achieved through jogging, this short-lasting, deeply euphoric state is also low impact on the rest of your body. So, whenever you’re feeling a bit lost or down, a quick morning jog can make a significant difference.
The transcendence a good jog brings becomes addictive. You can see it on the face of parkrunners across the UK every Saturday at 9am.
#10: Regularly jogging sharpens your memory
You might be jogging on autopilot, but it’s a great source of brainfood.
Regular or daily jogs increase the size of your hippocampus – a brain area which plays a critical role in memory. It also might slow the shrinking of your hippocampus that can lead to memory loss as you get older.
The onset of effects of aerobic exercise on the brain and behavior is rapid and is increasingly being prescribed by medical professionals to prevent, delay, or treat cognitive decline.
#11: Running slow gives you more brainpower
Brain fitness needn’t be limited to Sudoku puzzles.
A slow pace or moderate aerobic exercises are trusted allies in fighting mental fatigue. Researchers found that slow and steady aerobic exercise can boost neuroplasticity and protect against neurodegeneration.
I like to run with a few themes in mind:
- Exploring (no set agenda, immersing myself in the run)
- Expanding (listening to podcasts and audiobooks)
- Engaging (in a specific question or challenge)
#12: Running unlocks your creative potential
Another benefit of slow jogging is how it’ll repay itself with absolute clarity and a daily dose of inspiration.
There’s no better way to move beyond writer’s block or work through a new challenge.
It’s only when we relieve ourselves from high-pressure situations and allow our minds to wander can we do our best thinking. You’re blessed with countless visual stimulation when immersed in nature.
We’ve all had that epiphany when jogging or in the shower. Our subconscious mind has been searching for that killer idea or solution all along, but it’s only able to enter your conscious mind when slowing down.
Research shows a 60% boost in creative output when you lose yourself in solo exercise.
#13: Jogging at a slow pace energizes you
The paradox of slow jogging is the more often you do it, the more energy you have.
Jogging also makes you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of that sleep. Proper rest brings its own benefits:
- Better moods
- More productive
- More present
- More engaged
- Improved stamina
- Facilitates weight loss
- Better overall health
#14: Exploring on foot satisfies your sense of adventure
To wake up early and jog is to live two lives. Escaping in nature or exploring your city before others are awake will reveal more than you ever imagined.
I love nothing more than being a home tourist when jogging. Finding new routes. Mixing up your usual jogging routine. Embracing detours. Chasing magical sunrises. Running is not a passive experience and slow jogging benefits your capacity to take it all in.
Jogging is also a great way to get to know a new holiday destination. You’ll uncover the best eateries, parks, photo opps and street art. All when they’re at their quietest too.
#15: And finally, your breathing gets more efficient
Jogging helps you to breath more efficiently when exercising.
When you run, your muscles and cells depend on the constant delivery of oxygen and expulsion of carbon dioxide to propel movement. Good breathing also ensures proper muscular function of the diaphragm , which is key for stabilizing your core for better running form, and regulating your nervous system for staying cool under pressure.
Taking time to do exercises that strengthen the diaphragm and train you to breath correctly will increase your oxygen levels while running. Another surprising slow jogging benefit!
> Suggested reading: Reasons why jogging is good for you