Do novice runners quit mainly because of injuries?

Despite running’s widely recognized benefits for mental and physical health, a considerable number of novice runners get injured, and quit the sport (1, 2). Understanding the reasons why people stop running can help experts tailor their recommendations to assist their patients and athletes in starting or continuing to run.

Why do people quit running?

Researchers from Belgium and the Belgian Athletics Federation surveyed 2,209 individuals who identified as either runners or non-runners across all levels of experience. Participants were divided into four distinct categories:

  1. non-runners, who had never tried running at least once a week;
  2. novice runners who tried running at least once a week but stopped before completing 3 months;
  3. seasoned runners who ran at least once a week for more than 3 months and had to stop at least once; and
  4. runners who never had to stop running.

Researchers asked those individuals two main questions:

  1. why they had either never taken up running, temporarily stopped running, or quit running; and
  2. what might motivate them to start or resume a running program.

The reasons were varied and aplenty, but all revolved around a lack:

  • of proper physical condition (e.g. injuries, illnesses, health disorders, fatigue, smoking);
  • of social, professional or medical support;
  • of appropriate context (e.g. weather, insecurity, pandemic, unhealthy or unpleasant environment);
  • of proper equipment (e.g., clothing, shoes, headlamp); and
  • of time, interest, pleasure, motivation, or goals.

Motivation, scheduling, injuries

The different groups had distinct reasons for quitting, or taking a break from running. For instance, non-runners lacked interest or motivation. Those who had stopped did so mainly because of health issues, particularly injuries, but also because of organizational factors such as busy schedules or lack of time.


Interestingly, almost 3 in 4 novice runners said they quit because of a lack of motivation (38%) or an inconsistent schedule (34%). Surprisingly, only 8% of them had stopped running due to an injury. Hence, for every novice runner who has quit due to an injury, 9 have stopped for personal or organizational factors!

Addressing and overcoming barriers

These preliminary findings align with the literature, which shows that organizational factors, such as a lack of time, are major barriers to regular physical activity among sedentary individuals (3), and that reasons such as "I don't like it," "I don't have a goal," and "I lack confidence" are commonly cited for not engaging in regular physical activity (4).


Therefore, addressing personal and organizational barriers may be critical for encouraging individuals to initiate and maintain a regular exercise routine, including running. Health and fitness professionals should consider these factors when providing recommendations to ensure that novice runners feel motivated and supported to continue running.

Health through running – with a smile

It is crucial to make running an enjoyable and sustainable activity. To do so, novice runners can make their experience a positive one by:

  1. running with friends or in groups;
  2. setting short-term health or performance goals; and
  3. planning long-term progress to maintain motivation.

This way, they are much more likely to develop a consistent running routine and enjoy the numerous benefits associated with regular exercise.


Convinced? Then ready, set, run!



  1. Eime RM, Sawyer N, Harvey JT, Casey MM, Westerbeek H, Payne WR. Integrating public health and sport management: Sport participation trends 2001–2010. Sport Manag Rev. 2015;18(2):207-217.
  2. Chakravarty EF, Hubert HB, Lingala VB, Fries JF. Reduced Disability and Mortality Among Aging Runners. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):10.
  3. Kemler E, Blokland D, Backx F, Huisstede B. Differences in injury risk and characteristics of injuries between novice and experienced runners over a 4-year period. Phys Sportsmed. 2018;46(4):485-491.
  4. Justine M, Azizan A, Hassan V, Salleh Z, Manaf H. Barriers to participation in physical activity and exercise among middle-aged and elderly individuals. Singapore Med J. 2013;54(10):581-586.

Anh Phong Nguyen

Speaker for The Running Clinic in Europe