Aside from avoiding zombies, clowns, chihuahuas, and Godzilla, there are actually plenty of health benefits to running. For the record, I love all of those things mentioned in the opening line and I have had to run from a few of them…I’ll let your imagination decide which.
Running has gotten a bad rap for a long time. Unpopular opinion (facts really): running is good for your knees! This is quite contrary to the long-time held notion that running is bad for your knees. Unfortunately, the information has gotten botched through a poor game of telephone, but fortunately, technology has made it possible to convey the facts much more easily. Let’s take a look.
Our bodies are quite resilient. Despite the body breaking down at 30, or is it 35? Wait no, everything goes downhill after the age of 40. Definitely 40. But 50 is pretty rough too. C’monnn, lets ditch that numbers game! The reality is, our bodies are amazing, and resilient…if we take care of them. You’ll see a number of noteworthy things at any given running race, and one of them is participants well into their later decades of life toeing the start lines.
The fact is our bodies respond positively to certain stresses. We have to expose our bodies to safe levels of stress in order to strengthen it. You lift weights to stress and strengthen the muscles. Well, running may be a bit of an abstract concept in terms of stress, but the ground pushes back into your foot as you cruise down the road. This stress travels up the bones and soft tissue and signals your body to make certain changes, for the better. Bones, tendons, spine, discs, etc are all structural components that can be strengthened from running. This is in addition to cardiovascular and respiratory benefits.
There are obvious benefits to heart, vascular, and respiratory health with moderate exercise. Just 2-2.5 hours of moderate-level intensity exercise has been linked to a 35% decrease in heart disease, a 50% reduction in risk of type II diabetes, and reported improved eating habits and outlook. Heart muscle strengthens and becomes more efficient while weight loss also alleviates stress on the heart. And who doesn’t love some fresh air?
Bones also respond very well to moderate loading. The ground reaction force onto your body actually stimulates bone remodeling in which the bone matrix and layers strengthen and become more dense. This is why weight-bearing activity, walking, and gentle running can do wonders for individuals with osteopenia, osteoporosis, stress fractures, or other bone health risks. They are actually prescribed.
There was a statistic that 300k people over the age of 65 sustain a fall. And that 95% of all hip fractures resulted in a fall. Women 3x more than men. We’ve all dropped something that, to our surprise, didn’t break. But what happens when we drop a fine glass or plastic? It most certainly breaks. There is a definitive reason to promote bony health and resilience through weight-bearing activity, both resistance training and cardiovascular training. The osteogenic (bone health) protocols are conclusive and we love that! End goal: make your bones stronger.
Running has also been shown to improve vertebral disc (IVD) health. Until recently, there was not much evidence to show that IVDs responded to exercise at all. However, a recent study out of Cleveland showed that prolonged running exercise in both men and women resulted in improved IVD health. Specifically, the hydration and protein content of the discs were better in those who exposed themselves to regular low-intensity cardio, walking and running. This is perhaps one of the first times we have seen positive changes to the spine from regular cardio exercise, and as such is very promising.
We know the body responds to the loads and stresses it is exposed to. Our mission as allied healthcare professionals is to promote health and bring the information and methods to our friends and community members. Well, now we’re here to tell you that running is not the monster it was painted to be. It just so happens that we happen to like running a lot, and we also like buying running shoes, a lot. But that’s neither here nor there.
If you are curious about the effects of running, stay tuned, and please give us a call! We can talk running all day long and show you the best ways to start and sort through the running shoe maze.