What To Do With Your Arms When You Run

July 30, 2014 7:56 am 3 comments

OK, good, you’re running, because you read on SportsGeezer that running just ten minutes a day can add three years to your life. You’ve got the foot part down, but what to do with those arms? Fortunately, Gretchen Reynolds reports in the New York Timesarm_swing on researchers’ efforts to find the perfect arm swing while running. Reynolds reports that researchers at the University of Colorado tracked the efficiency (by measuring oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output) of runners using different types of arm swings.  Some runners were directed to hold their arms behind their backs, others crossed them over their chests, some swung arms wildly. What did they find? In most cases, runners ran most efficiently when they swung their arms in the way that felt most natural, which is to say, the way they usually swung them. Those runners whose arm swings were restricted failed to exploit the counterbalancing effect that arms swings have on pendulum-like leg motion. So the answer to the question: “What to do with those arms?” is “Do what you’ve always done. Swing them in a way that feels natural.”


  • Wow! Let your arms swing naturally.
    Who woudda thunk it?

  • Chuck Wilde

    This study is somewhat interesting if you want precise quantification of the obvious. Much more interesting is the subject of cross arm swing from side to side, the optimal degree of arm swing forward and back, the angle at which the humerus and the radius/ulna are held, and the tenseness of the hand/arm combination, i.e. fist balled, relaxed, etc. Although there is no doubt a lot of variation among individuals in these characteristics, these seem much more pertinent to running mechanics and confort, particularly over longer distances. These are characteristics that can be modified over time to improve running efficiency.

  • Yeah, I could do that research. But if one watches casual runners, “do what comes naturally” cannot always be the most efficient way to swing the arms.

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