People refer to it as the fountain of youth. Avid runners tout the health benefits of logging consistent miles. An excellent form of cardiovascular activity, a tool for weight loss and a great way to relieve stress, running has so many positives! Is it always healthy, though? Is running bad for you in some cases?
Is it possible to get too much of a good thing? Are there downsides to running? Should some people run using more moderation? Excellent questions.
First, Let’s Talk About The Positives
Of course there are many, many positives of running. Running is an excellent cardiovascular activity and we all know that improving heart health is a key to a long, healthy life.
Also, weight-bearing exercises like running help to build strong bones. Especially as we age and worry about things like osteoporosis, it is important to think about building strong bones in our youth and maintaining that strength as we age.
Running also helps to maintain muscular health. That’s right. As we run, muscles become and stay strong. In addition, it is a great way to keep ourselves lean and fit. Keeping a healthy weight is important to overall fitness and consistently running is one potential tool to achieve that.
For many people, running is also an excellent social activity. Whether you are part of a running community where you train or if the races themselves are where you get out and mingle, it is good for mental health to have healthy, human interaction on a consistent basis. Especially if you are with other like-minded people.
Lastly, running can be an exceptional stress reliever. Life can get hard and for many people, pounding the pavement helps alleviate stress. Not to imply it is a substitute for a professional intervention if you are struggling with mental health issues or severe depression, but it sure can help!
Although some people seem to be able to run through their entire life without any debilitating injuries, others are not so lucky. One key component to running and not causing permanent damage is to be wise to potential injuries.
Even though runners hate to hear that running will “wreck their knees,”, 40% of running injuries involve the knee. If you have had knee problems in the past, be careful and mindful of how your knees feel. If you experience knee pain, you need to make changes.
Your Achilles is another potential trouble spot. That area right behind your lower leg near the ankle, the Achilles is important to running. People particularly susceptible to Achilles problems are those who increase hill and/or speed work, and those who are forefoot strikers increasing mileage quickly.
Hamstring issues are also prevalent among runners. Many runners neglect proper stretching and are not nearly as flexible as they should be. However, being super flexible is also a potential risk factor. You want to be flexible, but not overly flexible, for a delicate balance. One of the largest muscles, the hamstring can spell big trouble if you neglect it.
Plantar fasciitis is every runner’s biggest fear because it can be so difficult to treat and often returns relentlessly. Runners with arches that are either too low or too high are susceptible to this.
When your shins ache, those are called shin splints. The most common causes of this pain are a quick increase in mileage or shoes that are no longer cushioned enough. Be smart if you feel the onset of shin pain because shin splints hurt a lot.
How To Avoid Injury
If the above runner aches have you nervous, know that there are things you can do to avoid these issues.
✓ Shoes – First, you should be fitted for the right shoes by a running shoe expert. A good shoe store will know a lot about running shoes and will watch your gait and stride to help outfit you in proper shoes. Also, replace your shoes when they start to feel broken down. This is usually anywhere from 350-500 miles.
✓ Stretching – Dynamic stretching before running is important. Never static stretch a cold muscle.
✓ Weight Training – You can strengthen muscles by weight training to avoid injury.
✓ Mileage – Do not increase your mileage too quickly. This is one-way people are commonly injured. The conventional rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week.
✓ Balance – If running becomes difficult or hard on your body, use balance. Some people can run day after day, week after week. Others need cross-training and non-impact days to achieve balance.
✓ Warm Up and Cool Down – Happy muscles are muscles that are properly warmed up and cooled down before and after every workout. Do not skimp on these things.
How Much Running Is Healthy?
This is a loaded question, one that is answered differently for every person. Some people can run 100 miles a week without problems. Others start to experience pain if they run more than 20 miles a week. The key to determining how much running is healthy is to listen to your body.
How to gauge is you are overdoing it?
- Are you getting burned out?
- Does running feel like a chore?
- Is your body always sore?
- Are you always fatigued?
Is Running Every Day Bad?
For those who are prone to injury or have some type of underlying condition, running every single day may be a bad choice. Even though there are many people who streak run for some people that just isn’t reasonable.
There are many people who question, “Is running bad for you?” The long and short of it is that running is not bad for you, if you keep some things in mind.
Whatever fitness regiment you plan to implement, do your homework. Start out slow and easy, increase your mileage and intensity at a reasonable pace. Consider any underlying conditions you might have that could make the workout plan dangerous for you. Be kind to your body.
If you are smart, running is a great form of exercise that many people enjoy well into their retirement years!