Thousands of people every year enter a plethora of running events such as The London Marathon, both The Great North and South run and local distance and, fun run events. However, is running really that good for you? Or should we think about taking up another form of exercise?
By Michael Anderson Chartered Physiotherapist at Horder Healthcare
As a Chartered Physiotherapist and someone who enjoys running as a method to keep fit but also unwind, I will always remember what a consultant orthopaedic surgeon said in a training session during my time a student, "running is not a good form of exercise and should be avoided at all costs." The following article briefly identifies whether this statement held any truth and whether we should throw away our running shoes and invest in an exercise bike instead.
There is a common belief that long term running is bad for your joints, and that vigorous exercise such as running may predispose a person to joint wearing conditions such as osteoarthritis in later life. Recently, an emerging body of research has contended this myth, demonstrating that there is a minimal connection between running and arthritis, with bouts of vigorous exercise such as running helping protect people from arthritic joints in the lower limb and help to maintain and improve bone density.
Inactivity and obesity are suggested to increase the risks of joint stress and osteoarthritis. Runners have been shown to have healthier knee cartilage (the substance that coats the ends of the bones) than sedentary individuals.
However, to simply get up, put on some footwear and go out for a run is not suggested. Sudden unstructured bouts of exercise should be avoided due to the risk of injury, and if in doubt, seeking professional advice is recommended.
Unfortunately, as we age, we are more predisposed to osteoarthritis in our joints, particularly those that move a lot and take a lot of pressure. This can be due to a lot of different reasons such as genetics, body weight, previous injuries etc. Some people who are genetically set up for arthritis, regardless of how they run, will still end up developing arthritis. For those people who already have an arthritic condition in a lower limb joint, running can worsen the symptoms and affect the walking/running pattern. People who are overweight and commence a running programme may also be predisposed to injury to the joints, especially the knee, due to the increased force and subsequent breaking down of the bone-coated cartilage.
Running can have both short and long term effects on your general health and well being, however, excessive amounts of running may be counterproductive, especially if you are new to this form of exercise.
Running engages most parts of the human body and, increases your heart rate, burns calories and strengthens leg, arm, and core muscles.
Short term benefits from running include increased mental clarity, a boost in energy and improved sleep. Running stimulates the brain chemicals that make you feel relaxed and happy, and also improve confidence and self-esteem. These chemical releases also cause an increase in your energy levels.
Running on a regular basis can help prevent certain diseases, such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease and might also contribute to a higher life expectancy. Running burns a lot of calories, which can contribute to consistent weight loss which assists in lowering blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol to recommended levels.