When it comes to cardio workouts, running is one of the most popular forms out there, in fact 36 million people run every year. For some running includes take a fast paced jog on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes, while others take running a bit farther than this– literally!
Distance running is becoming increasingly more and more popular. In fact according to this article, “the Boston and New York City Marathons usually attract over 25,000 people to their races.” Yet is going the distance when it comes to running really safe? While we know running provides many health benefits, when is it too much to where you start to cause more harm than benefit to your muscles and joints?
Not only distance running, but running in general has been shown to cause many injuries per year. According to an article Common Running Injuries and How to Recover, the Treadmill Review Guru himself stated that of those 36 million runners a year “40-50% experience at least one injury.” Other than the many Treadmill Review Guru listed in their article, osteoarthritis is also a running linked injury.
According to the article Is Distance Running Good for You? from greatist.com, “osteoarthritis [is] marked by the wearing down of cartilage…this can result in joints lacking their natural lubrication and the bone-on-bone friction.” While everyone may experience osteoarthritis as we age and our joints naturally and gradually lose cartilage, repetitive and high impact activities, such as distance running can cause symptoms decades before they might otherwise appear.
An article from SFGate.com titled Extreme Distance Running: Too Much of a Good Thing?, stated that there have been a studies published this year citing the negative health effects of exercise, one stating long-distance running specifically. The article stated, “evidence that a lot of running – a lifetime of running marathons, for example, or the 50-plus miles a week demanded by ultra-marathon training – may start to undo some of the benefits of exercise.”
The article went on to discuss some of the studies done saying “one study found that a small percentage of people may have an adverse reaction to exercise that actually increases their risk of heart disease and diabetes. A second study analyzed some of the changes to athletes’ hearts that could put them at risk.”
They also went on to mention several studies have been done to prove just the opposite. “Another study found that over the course of a year, there were fewer deaths among people who ran up to 20 miles a week, and at a fairly leisurely 10-minute-per-mile pace, than among people who didn’t run at all. That wasn’t a shock, of course. What was surprising was that there were fewer deaths among those runners than among people who ran more than 25 miles a week or at a faster pace.”
As you can see there are conflicting results when it comes to the case of whether or not distance running has proven to be safe or not. What we do know is that as with any running, injuries will occur but there are many ways you can minimize your chances of injury if you simply avoid dramatic increases in mileage when it comes to training for distance.
We’ve mentioned before in our Beginner Running Tips post that you always want to make sure you start out slow and only increase your distance and intensity over time; “give your body time to adjust to this newly place physical demand.” If runners push themselves too hard and too quickly, undermining their body’s ability to adapt to this increased stress on their joints; this is when excessive wear and tear will most easily occur.
Greatist.com suggests using the “10-percent rule” to help avoid overdoing it when it comes to distance running. The 10-percent rule means that week to week you should be doing no more than a 10-percent increase to your running distance. As we’ve previously suggested in How to Prevent Cardio Workout Injuries, you can also incorporate strengthen training to your weekly fitness regimens to strengthen your muscles and help prevent injury when doing your distance runs.
Dehydration is another potential danger distance runners should be aware of. When running long distance over a longer period of time you are bound to lose a lot of sweat, meaning you are losing a lot of your much needed body fluid. It is crucial to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water during your runs, as well as electrolytes to replace the loss of sodium and electrolytes due to your excess sweating. Yet apparently as with running you also have to know where to draw the line with your drinking.
Greatist.com also stated that besides dehydration, surprisingly over-hydration has proved to be a danger in distance runners. Over-hydration, also known as hyponatremia excessively dilutes the body’s salt level. “In the 2002 Boston Marathon, 1 out of 8 runners were found to have a serious fluid and salt imbalance due to drinking too much water/sports drinks.”
Distance running is a great cardio workout and should be looked at as a risk-taking move. It is a great way to stay in shape and burn calories. There are many workouts one can do that could potentially lead to injuries, yet there are simple and effective things we can always do to avoid and prevent these injuries, as with distance running.