For those who love it, there’s nothing like running as a form of exercise. Their day is incomplete without a few laps around the park. It’s something that works on the entire body and comes with a host of benefits. It elongates your posture, tones your muscles, develops the lungs, burns visceral and subcutaneous fat, improves cardiac health, helps manage diabetes, beats stress, and keeps depression and other such mental health disorders at bay. In short, it’s a super cool full-body workout!
So far, so good. Right?
Running Can Cause Injuries
Along with the benefits and perks, running also comes with a variety of health risks, unfortunately. It is truly a demanding form of exercise. On an average, runners have 37–56 percent chances of running-related injuries.1 Sore muscles, overuse injuries, cardiovascular deterioration and cardiac arrests, and joint pains and osteoarthritis are all part and parcel of the game—especially if you do it regularly for long distances.
According to a study, higher weekly running mileage and heavier individuals are more likely to report an injury. Runners are also significantly more prone to injuries of the knees and lower extremities.2 But that should not put you off running. With a few smart tips, tricks, and prep, you can master the exhilarating and rewarding sport. Here are 6 ways to manage the health risks of running.
1. Warm Up And Cool Down
As a rule of thumb, the beginning of most athletic events is with a few standard warm-up and stretching moves. This not only enhances performance, as a study points out, but also leads to reduced risk of injuries. While it needs to be extensively examined whether warm-ups and stretching effectively prevent running injuries, no detrimental effect has been observed. Sports practitioners and athletes lean on the time-tested practice of warm-ups before exercise and stretching or cool-downs afterwards.3
2. Start Slow And Build Your Muscles
Studies of military recruits who are assigned a particular amount of vigorous exercise conclude that those who have been the least active and least fit suffer more. Their risk of musculoskeletal injuries is two to three times higher than their fitter counterparts. A review of interventions to prevent running injuries in the soft tissues of their lower limbs reveals that there is no “optimal training load.” Injuries are related to frequency, duration, intensity, or total amount of training. Therefore, it’s best to start slow and build up your muscles gradually so that you don’t face lasting repercussions.4
3. Recognize Early Symptoms Of Overuse
Along with training for that marathon, you also need to brush up on knowing the early signs of overuse.5 This is very important for the prevention of sports injuries. When you experience nagging aches and pains that occur way too frequently after running, you need to pause. Get yourself examined by a physiotherapist before it becomes worse and gets you off the tracks for good.
4. Get The Right Shoes For Your Feet
You’ve been dealt a poor hand if you have cavus or high-arched feet. Studies show that runners with a high arch are more prone to running injuries. They have a higher rate of overall lower extremity injury. In a study of stress fractures, of which 60 percent were runners, cavus feet were noted in 40 percent.6 What can you do about it? Get the right shoes that are specifically meant for your foot type.
5. Prepare Your Heart With Exercise Every Day
Though cardiac arrests are rare, some incidents wherein the runner passed away or had severe cardiovascular complications while running do raise some eyebrows. The stats, however, are really low: 0.2 cardiac arrests and 0.14 sudden deaths per 100,000 runner-hours at risk, using average running times of 4 and 2 hours for the marathon and half-marathon, respectively. The incidents of cardiac arrests while or after running are noted more in males.7
Studies conclude that while the risk of cardiac arrest is momentarily higher during vigorous exercise, habitual vigorous exercise is associated with an overall decreased risk of primary cardiac arrest. So it is always advisable to take things slow, be active on a regular basis, and build up your running routine rather than running endless laps all of a sudden.8
6. Sip Water To Keep The BP From Dropping
Many a times, running leads to a drop in blood pressure. While it is good news for those with hypertension, it’s not so great for those with normal or low BP. To avoid feeling dizzy and combat this side effect, make sure you stay well hydrated before, during, and after running, as dehydration causes a dip in blood pressure. Whether or not you have a blood pressure problem, a sipper should always be by your side during all your runs to avoid dehydration.910
As you can see, even a wonderful exercise like running comes with a range of risks. So take adequate precaution before attempting your first marathon.
|↑1, ↑5||van Mechelen, Willem. “Running injuries.” Sports Medicine 14, no. 5 (1992): 320-335.|
|↑2||Blair, Steven N., Harold W. Kohl, and Nancy N. Goodyear. “Rates and risks for running and exercise injuries: studies in three populations.” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 58, no. 3 (1987): 221-228.|
|↑3, ↑6||Fields, Karl B., Jeannie C. Sykes, Katherine M. Walker, and Jonathan C. Jackson.”Prevention of running injuries.” Current sports medicine reports 9, no. 3 (2010): 176-182.|
|↑4||Powell, Kenneth E., Amanda E. Paluch, and Steven N. Blair. “Physical activity for health: What kind? How much? How intense? On top of what?.”Public Health 32, no. 1 (2011): 349.|
|↑7||Kim, Jonathan H., Rajeev Malhotra, George Chiampas, Pierre d’Hemecourt, Chris Troyanos, John Cianca, Rex N. Smith et al. “Cardiac arrest during long-distance running races.” New England Journal of Medicine 366, no. 2 (2012): 130-140.|
|↑8||Siscovick, David S., Noel S. Weiss, Robert H. Fletcher, and Tamar Lasky.”The incidence of primary cardiac arrest during vigorous exercise.” New England Journal of Medicine 311, no. 14 (1984): 874-877.|
|↑9||Cornelissen, Veronique A., and Neil A. Smart. “Exercise training for blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of the American Heart Association 2, no. 1 (2013): e004473.|
|↑10||Holtzhausen, L. M., and TIMOTHY D. Noakes. “The prevalence and significance of post-exercise (postural) hypotension in ultramarathon runners.”Medicine and science in sports and exercise 27, no. 12 (1995): 1595-1601.|