We all agree that modern lifestyle has brought with it a plethora of diseases that were not so common before. Examples include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems etc. Since decades, doctors and researchers are blaming our sedentary lifestyle and bad food habits for a dramatic rise in these diseases. We now know that a moderate amount of exercise should be included in our daily routine in order to stay fit and healthy. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of a daily walk at a brisk pace to keep our heart in good shape. But is there a thing such as too much exercise? Is running bad for you? Read on to know more.
Running ranks as one of the most popular forms of exercise across all age groups. It does not require specialized equipment to get started with running nor do you require expensive gym memberships. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and a determined mind. We all find passionate runners in the park, on natural trails, on the beach and practically everywhere that they can find the space to run. This is because they are aware of the various running benefits for health.
Running is like an addiction and the current trend of running marathons is fuelling this addiction. We all have grown up with the notion that running is good for health and we consider running to be a beneficial activity for our health. However, increasing scientific evidence is putting an imposition on how much running is good and thereby directly questioning the health benefits of running.
Table of Content
- How Running Changes Your Body
- Physiological Effects of Long-Term Running
- Need for Professional Running Instructors
- How Does The Body React to Running
- Running and Age Factor
- Are Ultramarathoners Healthy
- Bottomline: Excess of Everything is Bad
- Is Running Bad for You: The Final Verdict
How Running Changes Your Body
We all know that running changes our body for good! Endurance exercise like running and jogging pump up the blood circulation and blood supply to the heart. It improves the flexibility of blood vessels thereby lowering the risk of myocardial ischemia. Running is also known to have a positive effect on blood pressure management and coping with a lack of oxygen. It increases oxygenated blood supply from the heart to the body and results in better functioning of various organs. After reading these health benefits of running on your body, if someone asks you “Is running bad for you?”, you will certainly say No!
Physiological Effects of Long-Term Running
The facts mentioned above are the effects of short term and transient exercise and running. When considering running as a long-term endurance exercise, several physiological parameters have to be studied in detail before concluding the positive and negative health effects of running and to know the answer to the question ‘is running everyday bad?’. Let us have a look at some of these important parameters.
Studies have shown that athletes who run more than five marathons in a year have more deposits of calcium in their arteries than others. This can directly be correlated to the fact that during a period of an intense workout, the arteries tend to swell up in order to fulfil the increased demand of blood and oxygen in the body. This is when calcium deposits in these arteries. CT scans have clearly shown that such runners have significantly more calcium in their coronary arteries than people who don’t run. Perhaps now you will not be so sure about answering the question ‘Is running bad for you’.
Heart studies done on marathoners clearly show an increased stiffening of the heart, much similar to the diastolic irregularities seen in patients of chronic hyper tension. It is worth noting that chronic hypertension is a leading cause of diastolic heart attacks, especially in middle-aged people.
Troponin and BNP
The biomarkers of the heart like Troponin and BNP are indicators of damage to the heart muscles and tissue. After an intense running session, the levels of both of these markers are significantly raised in the bloodstream. Though they are normalised in about two days, the fact remains that the body releases these markers after running in the same manner as it would do after heart injury.
It has been proven that untrained individuals who indulge in a very high-intensity workout are much more likely to have occurrences of blood clots. The biological reason behind increased tendency of blood clots is platelet activation and induction of clotting factors after a workout. These clots can prove to be deadly if they lodge in the heart.
A very rapidly beating heart is said to be fibrillating. A clinical condition of this effect is Arrhythmia- the beating of the heart without a rhythm. Fibrillation of Atria and Ventricles of the heart is much more prevalent in endurance athletes.
A careful consideration of the physiological parameters discussed above clearly indicates that it is better runners to take it easy, especially after they hit the middle age. Now you are beginning to re-think about the question ‘Is running bad for you?’
Need For Professional Running Instructors
Experts believe that there is nothing to be scared. They advise us to follow the adage ‘Excess of everything is bad’. While it is a great feeling to have achieved our set fitness standards, it is prudent to hire a professional trainer to set your exercise and running routine. The instructor will carefully study your lifestyle and eating habits.
They will probably also look at your health records and consider your expectations from an exercise regimen. Once they have all this information, they will carefully chalk out a bespoke running plan for you. Stick to their plan. Remember- slow and steady wins the race.
Remember- running is good for health, but only if it is pursued and developed under strict control and supervision of a trained professional.
How Does The Body React to Running
Like all exercises, running has direct implications on several body functions, let's find out how:
- It has been established that even moderate amount of running brings down the levels of Testosterone in the body. Apart from other functions, testosterone is also responsible for speeding up muscle recovery from damage and stress. Continuous running will lead to a drastic depletion of testosterone and this will, in turn, slow down the recovery of muscles.
- Another aspect of strenuous running for long period is implicated as a reduction in the body’s defence mechanisms. This is manifested by a reduction in immunity and increased susceptibility to infections and other diseases.
- Another very common implication of amateur running is the ill effect on the knees. The elderly population is even advised against running because of the doubt ‘is running bad for knees’. Many people start running on impulse and then realise that they have damaged the cartilage of the knee joint. Since running puts direct pressure on the knees and ankles, it is not advisable to randomly decide to run. Knee pain after running should not be taken lightly. If running is continued in this condition, the problem will become chronic and make even walking uncomfortable. If your knees hurt after running, it could be a clear indication that you are overdoing it. The immediate knee pain when running can be treated symptomatically but over time, it might give rise to serious knee damage.
So, when pondering over the doubt ‘is running bad for you’, we can safely conclude that moderate amounts of running is good for health and will definitely have health benefits, but intense running over prolonged periods of time might not be as beneficial as initially thought to be. Let us know have a look at the various ways of deciding how much is too much.
Running and Age Factor
As much as we hate to admit it, the fact remains that our body changes drastically as we age. Our strength, stamina, response to injury and recovery time are altered as we gain the years. One should definitely strive towards fitness as we grow old, but it is very important to be clear about the definition of fitness. If we ask ourselves ‘is running good for health’, the answer will depend on our age.
Our targets of exercise and running should be different in our younger and older days. The changes in body structure and physiology should always be kept in mind while designing the intensity and duration of our running schedules. Taking the help of a professional trainer makes this task very easy and we do not have to worry about doing too less or too much. Let us have a look at the various correlation trends between running and age.
Research has shown that young adults who start very intensive workouts and running regimens have a higher incidence of heart fibrillation later in life. These results are also supported by animal models. In a stark contrast, high-intensity running started in middle age did not statistically have any effect on the tendency to have a heart fibrillation episode later in life. However, you can incorporate running at 40s, but with proper care.
The duration of high-intensity running is also found to have a direct effect on heart fibrillation. Young adults who regularly ran for more than 5 hours a week were much more likely to develop fibrillation later in life.
The frequency of intensive running also showed similar results as above. People who strenuously ran for five or more days in a week and those who did not run at all were at a much higher risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Other than the above-mentioned effects, it has been found that knee pain while running is more common in the elder population compared to the younger one.
Are Ultramarathoners Healthy?
It is ironic and deeply saddening to witness the sudden death of an otherwise fit person. The incidences of ultramarathoners falling prey to sudden deaths due to impaired heart functions are rare, but gradually increasing. People who train themselves to run regularly at half marathons and marathons have a higher chance to cardiac mishaps.
In fact, people lesser than the age of 40 years are less likely to survive an endurance training induced heart attack than someone who is above the age of 40. This shocking fact comes to light because younger people generally suffer from cardiomyopathy that involves thickening of heart muscle. In contrast, the older population generally suffers from ischemia that can be reversed.
Is running bad for you? Is running good for you? What are your thoughts now?
Bottomline: Excess of Everything is Bad
The facts mentioned above clearly indicate that moderation is the word to follow. Self-restraint and setting our priorities right will go a long way in deciding the outcome of our running routine. It is worthwhile to keep the following points in mind:
- Running should be pursued only if you feel good about it. It should never be imposed on somebody for the sake of being better than someone else, breaking someone else’s records, or proving anything to anyone. The only person who should feel good about your running statistics is you.
- Many people compare passions to drugs, and rightly so. People tend to become addicted to their passion. This is clearly not healthy. Instead of becoming obsessed with running, try to weigh pros and cons of your high intensity running routine.
- It is good to be able to run great distances and feel good about it too, but please don’t forget that it is a means of leisure only. Don’t be disheartened if you are not able to reach your target distance in your target time.
- If you are having sleepless nights before your next marathon, it is time to introspect and sort out your priorities. Please remember that running is just a part of your life. Don’t make it any bigger. No pressure should be taken regarding your running performance.
- Finally, if your body is giving you signs of fatigue and restlessness, listen to your body and pay heed to your health. It might be a sign of exertion.
Is Running Bad For You: The Final Verdict
Conflicting reports and beliefs among different groups of people have raised a lot of questions about running. In light of the various scientific findings, it is normal to wonder about the benefits of high intensity running. Is running bad for you? If done in excess and on impulse, yes. If pursued slowly and steadily, no. Long-term runners should definitely consider availing the services of a professional trainer. Regular heart checkups should be performed in all those who wish to pursue running. This way, it will be easier to monitor early changes in the heart structure and function, and it will prevent a major mishap.