Sunday, May 6, 2012

Running Bad for You? Oh Pshaw!

As a runner you hear it all the time when you tell non-runners about your passion. "Oh, isn't running bad for you? Or, "I'd run, but it's bad for your knees." More often than naught, these individuals are overweight and I find it ironic how it doesn't occur to them, that maybe the extra weight they are carrying is probably far worse for the knees than running?

I think once the phrases "low impact" and "high impact" became integrated into our vocabulary, people jumped at the chance to use them as excuses for why not to do exercise, particularly running. "Running is 'high impact' so I'd better just walk. Not that walking is bad, it's a great form of exercise. But, I feel much of the general public too quickly discounts running, because they think it's bad for you.

In reality, I think many of the sedentary naysayers are probably more intimidated by exercise rather than being scared that running will actually hurt them. I respect that. Getting into exercise after years of a sedentary lifestyle can be very intimidating. The key, however, is just starting. Whether it's running, Pilate's, yoga, walking, group exercise, swimming, or square dancing, just get out there and do it. Start slow, build your fitness gradually. The number one mistake newbies-to-exercise make is taking an all-or-nothing approach. With fitness that's setting yourself up for defeat before the game even starts.

It takes the body about 4-6 weeks to acclimate to new intensities no matter what the fitness level. Even if an Olympic weight lifter mixes it up and puts different intensities on his body, he'll feel it. Your fitness level will actually dip initially after starting your new exercise as your body acclimates to the new demands put upon it. That dip is called the gain threshold. But, if you hang in there you'll pull out of that dip and be stronger than when you started. Depending on the individual, that can take 4-6 weeks. Many individuals become discouraged and quit at week two or three because they don't realize that it will get better.

Now back to running and whether or not it's bad for you. Like anything, too much of a good thing can be bad. 100-mile weeks probably isn't a good thing for the general population. However, moderate running on a regular basis has proven to be very beneficial. It can even add years to your life. Yep, years.

I recently read in HealthDay about a Danish study, headed by Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist of the long-term Copenhagen city Heart Study. Schnohr stated, "We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity. The study began in 1976. Researches compared the mortality of joggers and non-joggers ages 20-93 (about 20,000 participated in the study)

The 35-year study found that 10,158 non-joggers and 122 joggers died. That's a 44% decline in the risk of death for joggers male and female. Male joggers can extend their lives by 6.2 years and female joggers by 5.6 years. The researches concluded that jogging at a slow pace for 1 to 2.5 hours weekly was the most beneficial.

So what's so magical about jogging? The researchers believe that jogging...

  • raises the "good" HDL cholesterol
  • lowers triglycerides
  • improves heart function (makes it stronger)
  • increases bone density in young adults and maintains it in older adults
  • improves immune function
  • improves psychological function
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduces platelet aggregation
  • helps prevent obesity

Other studies show even more benefits of running...

  • decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's
  • decreased risk of developing breast cancer
  • decreased risk of stroke
  • decreased risk of Adult Onset Diabetes 
  • decreased risk of osteoporosis
  • decreased risk of heart attack
  • better weigh maintenance
  • stress relief
  • aid in fighting depression
  • aid in fighting insomnia 

Well, gosh, I think all that data should hush the naysayers. What are you waiting for? Go for a run!


Wanda said...

The funniest thing I heard lately was a friend's mother telling me that women shoudn't run because your bladder would fall out. I actually laughed in her face - I just couldn't help it. I then pointed out that runners had very strong cores and strong pelvic muscles which work to actually HELP prevent the bladder issues that inactive women have!

Lauren said...

Thank you very much!! I used to almost blow my lid when people told me how bad running is. Now I just giggle to myself. Sometimes I say something stupid like, "so is getting on the freeway" (as in driving the freeway is bad for you, yet you do it!!) Eventually, the people who claim that see that I'm still walking around and that I can catch my youngest child when he runs off, and they stop making the claim that "running is bad for you."