Is Running Bad for You?

runner, running, sport, fitnessThe opinions from ‘experts’ about whether running is good or bad for you have been bandied back and forth for years.

There is no doubt that running, or jogging, can be good exercise that can help keep you fit, but some studies have shown that there could be a dark side to running.

As with many things in life, the amount that you engage in the activity could be the determining factor as to whether or not you are benefitting from running.

Running and the Heart

All of us have heard stories of dedicated joggers and runners who have been found dead at some point of their normal, daily run.

Some of these people had a family history of heart disease, and were attempting to forestall cardiovascular problems, but others had clean family bills of health, yet they did collapse and die.

There are some interesting findings that may help to shed light on running and heart attacks.

  • It has been found that people who run excessively will have just as much of a chance of a heart attack as those who sit on their duffs and eat all day. The reason for this appears to be a substance that the heart produces called troponin which is produced when the heart contracts. Those who run marathons, especially, will produce excess amounts of troponin, even very young people in their teens.
  • Prolonged and excessive exercise also results in calcification of heart tissue and adjoining arteries. The buildup of calcium not only contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), but causes damage to the heart muscle itself.
  • Some long distance runners have developed necrotic (dead) heart cells and tissues, and inflamed heart tissue. After a marathon, many runners will demonstrate a 30% shutdown of heart tissue, meaning that only about 70% of the heart is actually actively beating.

These findings are obviously quite alarming, but there is also some good news along with the bad, and that is that limiting running to 2 ½ hours a week can strengthen the heart, and contribute to overall good health. Those who run or jog moderately have an excellent chance of avoiding heart attacks and staying in better overall condition.

Aching Knees

Once again, there is a great deal of controversy over whether running causes injuries to the knee. Every time we step down, while walking, it puts the equivalent of 2 to 3 times our body weight onto our knees, when we run, this factor can be increased up to 5 times, meaning that it is possible for 15 times your body weight to impact your knees every time your foot hits the ground. Running, especially excessive running, has been linked with the development of arthritis, although many running aficionados deny this vigorously.

The weight and sex of the runner also has a bearing on whether knee injuries will occur, with those who are overweight being much more at risk of damaging their knee joint than those who are at normal weight. Women, also, are more likely to damage their knees when running, and this is due to several factors:

  • Women have wider pelvic bones than men, which means that their knees are not lined up as exactly under their bodies.
  • The joints of women tend to be more flexible than do men’s joints, which means they can be injured more easily.

There are several ways to help prevent injury to your knee if you enjoy running, and would like to continue to do it without interruption.

  • To begin with, start off slowly; take short runs as your body adjusts itself to the activity.
  • Make sure you have the proper footgear from running; poorly designed footwear can contribute to a poor gait that can put more stress on the knee.
  • Adjust your strides so they are shorter; long strides increase the impact force on your knees.
  • Landing on the ball of the foot will lessen the chances that your knee will be injured; most people land on their heel, which puts immediate and hard strain on the knee.
  • Don’t run more than 2 ½ hours a week; the longer you run, the more chances there are of hurting your knee.

Hopefully, your running will always be a pleasant experience, but if you do run into any problems with your knees, consider massage therapy to assist with rehabilitation.