Running is one of the most popular exercises for exercise enthusiasts. From avid long-distance runners training for marathons, to those recommitting to lose weight and get in shape, many enjoy the benefits of this high-intensity, relatively inexpensive form of exercise. However, due to the intense nature of running, questions have naturally arisen about the potential negative consequences running could have on your health. This article takes a look at what studies have found regarding the advantages and disadvantages of running.
1. Weight Loss
For those who have taken to pounding the pavement in an effort to lose weight, they will be gratified to learn that a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that combed through six years of survey data of thousands of walkers and runners found that runners were consistently thinner than the walkers when they joined the survey, and maintained their thin physique better than the walkers throughout all six years. Those of the older generation should take note that the difference was particularly prevalent in those aged 55 and older. It’s not clear why running has a better effect on weight management than walking, but the researchers suggested it could be because running decreases appetite while walking can increase it.
2. Reduced Risk for Disease
Another study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that runners decreased their risk for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. These benefits seem natural given that running can help keep weight off, and strengthens the lungs and the heart. Running can also increase bone density, particularly in the legs. In one study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that runners who only ran eight or fewer times a month still had a higher bone mass density than non-runners. This improved bone density can stave off diseases like osteoporosis.
3. Healthy Joints
It was often thought that the pressure put on the knees while running could lead to knee arthritis. However, recent studies have found that running has the same impact on the joints as walking. How is this possible? Researchers conducted an experiment of both walkers and runners to determine how much force was generated when the foot struck the ground, how often the force occurred and for how long. While running did in fact produce more force, the foot also struck the ground less often and for a shorter length of time. When all of these factors are taken into account, the amount of force on the knees over a given distance is the same whether you are running or walking.
1. Increased Risk of Injury
Although running doesn’t directly cause arthritis in the knees, its high intensity does increase your risk of other injuries. 50 to 75 percent of running-related injuries are due to overuse, so lack of experience, competitive running, or an excessive running schedule increases your risk of injury. One particularly common injury is runner’s knee, which is caused from the kneecap not running smoothly along its track. Should this particular injury occur, it’s important to support the knee in order to not cause additional injury. Running on a treadmill or on dirt instead of concrete can also ease the impact of running on the knee. Runners should also make sure to always the appropriate gear on whenever they go out to run. Good running shoes will help minimize the stress placed on the joints. New pairs should be bought whenever the old begin to run out.
Another way to avoid injuries is to make sure runners are eating a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables. Along with a balanced diet, taking nutritional supplements can also make a big difference for preventing injuries. As personal care company Nu Skin says, “a properly formulated nutritional supplement delivers an important and measurable benefit to human nutrition and health.” Runners, however, need to make sure to use nutritional supplements alongside a balanced diet instead of as a substitute.
2. Open to Abuse
From P.E. students who are given laps to run as punishment, to dieters who punish themselves with more exercise because they ate that last donut, running is frequently abused. It’s easy to push yourself too hard or to run in conditions that are too hard on your body, such as extreme heat. Some runners can even become addicted to the endorphins that running produces, leading to unhealthy practices. Luckily, this disadvantage can be avoided by practicing moderation in your running routine and refusing to use running as a form of punishment.
3. Lack of Entertainment
Unlike taking up a sport, which may provide a bit of fun in addition to the exercise, running can get boring pretty fast. The problem is compounded if people choose to run on a treadmill, where they’ll be stuck in one place for the duration of the run. This noticeable lack of entertainment may be on reason many people eventually give up on their running routines, viewing them as more of a chore than a hobby. Essentially, runners have to find their own fun. Some do this by bringing music along with them, while others like to go running in scenic areas or on varying trails throughout the week. Whatever a runner chooses, the challenge to keep at it is only increased by the monotony of the activity.
4. Higher Risk for Certain Diseases
While running can certainly ward off many diseases, a study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria shows that runners have an increased chance of contracting other types of illnesses. Researchers say high-intensity training can lead to suppressed immune function. This is caused by certain stimulated proteins which can suppress cell immunity, leaving runners more likely to get sick. The same study also showed some runners were at higher risk for skin cancer due to longer exposure to the sun. It should be noted that the study mostly focused on long distance runners and not the more casual type. Plus, the health benefits associated with running may outweigh the potential risks.