Is Running Bad for your Body?
Is Running to Blame for Muscle and Bone Damage?
The lower part of the body can take quite a beating when you run. It places a lot of strain on the joints, bones, muscles, and all tissue below the waist but it is especially hard on the knees and hips.
According to some studies, the majority of running injuries happen in the legs, with the knees taking the majority of the abuse.
A Closer Look at Causes and Risks
Most running-related injuries can be tied to bad form or a misalignment of the joints. Some evidence also points to the terrain or even your shoes.
The vast majority of running injuries (up to 75%) can be traced to overuse. When the body is subjected to repetitive movement without rest, problems can happen. It should come as little surprise, therefore, that anywhere from 30-70% of running injuries recur.
Running has also been touted as one of the best ways to lose weight and has been recommended by fitness trainers for a long time. Overuse is a given with long distance running when you don't rest and give your body what it needs in terms of nutrition. It is a recipe for injury when you add on extra miles under those conditions.
Obesity also tends to play into running injuries. According to one study that compared obese and non-obese people who ran, those who were obese were prone to injury at a much higher rate when they ran 3km or more during their first week.
And if those injuries have occurred in the past, there is also a greater chance of them happening again.
Running Injury Types
A hamstring muscle tear (hamstring sprain) and tendon inflammation (tendinitis) are common injuries seen in sprinters. Middle-distance runners tend to have hip and back pain, while long-distance runners have more foot problems.
Some additional issues that could affect runners include shin splints, runner's knee, ligament tears, Achilles tendinitis, ankle sprain, and plantar fasciitis.
Does Running Cause a Reduction in Bone Density?
When comparing long-distance and short-distance runners, several studies show that the longer distance runners have lower bone density.
In fact, an average of 9.7% lower lumbar spine bone density was seen in runners who ran an average of 92km weekly versus those who didn't run.
Low bone mass and faster bone turnover were also problems in a study involving male long-distance runners. This seems to indicate that runners who ran longer distances tend to have accelerated bone loss.
Female endurance runners were shown to be similar. There seemed to be a correlation between their running distance and lumbar spine bone mineral density.
Lower bone density puts people at an increased risk for fractures, especially during fast, high-impact activities such as running, jumping and skipping. These types of activities increased spinal compression, leading to the mentioned problems.
However, some recent research suggest the opposite, that is an increase in leg bone density is possible with weight-bearing exercises, including running.
These studies also show that bone stiffness, which is directly related to bone density, is seen regardless of sex or the distance traveled. According to John Tobias, a professor at the University of Bristol, adolescents had increased bone density when they participated in high-impact activities. It seemed to be more pronounced in males.
When bone density is developed early, it may keep later problems with bone density at bay. This is especially true in females, who may experience issues when estrogen drops after menopause.
Is Running Hard on the Heart?
Heart attacks can be triggered by exertion but is that the only reason why they occur?
It isn't unheard of for a runner to experience a heart attack within an hour after starting their run. This is more likely to be a problem for those who don't usually exert themselves in this way.
One study showed something interesting; heart attacks were possible in those who exerted themselves but make up less than 4% of all heart attack cases. The study seemed to suggest that gradually ramping up your activity level can reduce the risks involved.
The heart attack was also found in individuals with moderate exertion levels. This seems to indicate that there are other triggers besides physical exertion. Even anger and stress could trigger such an event.
Is Running Hard on the Kidneys?
Exertional rhabdomyolysis is a process that results in damaged skeletal muscle cells, and it is related to strenuous exercise. .
Damage to the muscle causes myoglobin, a type of protein, to be released into the bloodstream. When the body is under heat stress or is dehydrated, myoglobin is seen at higher levels and collect in the kidneys. As it breaks down in the kidneys, it can damage the cells and cause kidney failure.
But what's interesting about long-distance runners is that kidney failure is not a common problem. When it is an issue, it was often found that bacterial or viral infections were to blame.
Other reasons for kidney failure in runners include taking analgesics for conditions that already exist, including latent myopathy, dehydration, and heat stress.
To sum things up, running does come with risks, especially if it is not done properly. When the proper precautions are taken, however, it may be possible to prevent injuries. Do things the right way to experience the benefits and limit the risks.
Take things slow and get the proper guidance from an experienced runner if possible. In all things, including running, moderation is the key to success.