IS RUNNING BAD FOR YOU? BENEFITS VS RISKS
Running nowadays has become one of the most popular forms of physical activity. All major and even minor cities across the globe (well, maybe Western world) hold own 5-mile or 10-mile runs, half or full marathons, etc., promoting healthy lifestyle and movement among its population. Sometimes it’s really hard not to give in into this whole psychosis as you feel guilt of being the only person among the majority who doesn’t enjoy it. However, is running the best exercise for you personally? Are you going to achieve your goals by choosing running over a whole lot of other options? Is Running Bad For You?
This question is certainly hard to answer. Some people are simply built for running and can truly enjoy this activity while gaining all the benefits it has to offer (like losing weight, getting fitter & healthier).
Others on the other hand, may find it more difficult to enjoy running. It can be due to many reasons. Physical unpreparedness is probably the most common one. People, who live more sedentary lifestyle are usually in worse physical condition, have smaller muscle mass and perhaps already overloaded joints (not necessarily due to overweight, but due to weak muscle mass that affects your entire body).
If you haven’t moved much lately and consider start running, please read How To Start Working Out before you begin. If you have read the article and think you are ready, then let’s go over the the Benefits of Running vs Risks.
Benefits of Running
1. It’s Free
One of the key pros that encourage people to start running is that it’s free. Besides high quality running shoes, you don’t really need anything.
You don’t need to get a membership at a local gym. You don’t need to hire a trainer. It’s free. Unless a local government enforces a fee for sidewalk use in your city, you should be good to go.
2. High Endorphin Release
Running in general is quite intense workout. Like other aerobic exercises, running promotes the release of endorphins – body’s biochemical that reduces the perception of pain in your brain and makes your body feel better…
… like morphine.
So the results of running can roughly be compared to that of narcotics driving your body into ecstasy. Which is quite cool, isn’t it? Perhaps.
3. Great Calorie Burner
In addition to being free endorphin booster, running is a great exercise to burn calories and keep fit. However, the amount of calories burnt will highly depend on your intensity. If you have never run, you are highly unlikely to make a 10-minute mile.
How many calories do you burn while running?
It’s impossible to say exactly, as it also highly depends on intensity, weight, incline or decline road, muscle mass and so on. But on average, the numbers for a 150 lbs. weighing person look something like that:
A combo of jogging and walking – 350 calories per hour;
Jogging – 400 calories per hour;
Running 12-minute mile – 480 calories per hour;
11-minute mile – 570 calories per hour;
10-minute mile – 610 calories per hour;
9-minute mile – 690 calories per hour;
8-minute mile – 780 calories per hour;
7-minute mile – 880 calories per hour;
6-minute mile – 1,000 calories per hour.
So as you can see, the faster you make a mile, meaning the higher the intensity, the higher amount of calories your burn per hour.
Duh, thanks Mr. Obvious.
If you are a beginner, you should not even be looking at lower minute miles, as it simply will not be possible to achieve, unless, of course, you are undiscovered talent of running. However, consistent and hard work will allow your progress to grow upwards at a stable rate.
Persistence and consistence are the key.
4. Can Be Relaxing
Running on the beach with beautiful scenery and relaxing wave sounds may be a delight and rejuvenation to your mind and body. Wet sand will ensure higher level or amortization and thus less pressure on your joints than running on concrete for example. Thus hitting the beach may be a good idea.
Sometimes little things like that make your running experience way worth the effort.
However, getting to that point when you can enjoy running without thinking about your burning lungs, shin splints, cramping calves, hurting knees or tight heels may take a while. Sometimes even too long, which takes us to the other side – the cons.
Risks of Running
1. Traumatizes Your Body
Running traumatizes your body perhaps more than any other exercise you could choose from. The mostly affected parts are joints like ankles and knees. However, other body parts including lower back, Achilles tendon and shins absorb their share of impact as well.
The worst thing is that it’s very hard, and sometimes even impossible to prevent small injuries from happening. No matter how much you warm up and do dynamic stretch before your run, your body is just simply not used to running, yet.
The pain in your joints is caused by few different factors. Firstly and probably most importantly, weak muscles surrounding you major joints play key role allowing pain to creep in upon them. If you have never worked out, well, it’s hard to expect for a different outcome.
Soreness in the joints will be inevitable and should be prepared for in advance. Simple things like stretching your full body right after a run, putting extreme emphasis on lower back and major leg muscles, icing and then resting may solve the majority of problems.
Once again, persistence and consistence are the key.
2. Hard To Find Good Surface
Not all of us have a park nearby with a soft grass or sandy dirt. Most of us end up running on asphalt or concrete. These two surfaces are extremely hard putting enormous pressure on your mentioned joints. Therefore sustaining Achilles tendonitis, shin splints or other inflammation in your joints will be inevitable part of your running experience.
The good side to all this is that our bodies will adapt to anything we do. If you run on concrete everyday, your body will get used to it and you eventually stop having soreness in your joints and muscles. The downside is that it may take a while. As the result, keeping the motivation high may be much harder.
The main advice given by the experts once the pain creeps in is to take some time off. Inflammation will not go anywhere if pressure is further applied. However, taking some time off will setback your progress and improvement.
You may have busted your butt to achieve certain results only then to suffer an Achilles tendonitis. Taking few weeks off, which is usually recommended for inflammation to go away, will bring you back to a condition of burning lungs and more shin splints.
Such a buzz kill.
4. Endorphin Addiction
We mentioned endorphin release as a major pro of running. However, it’s a double-edged sword. The more you run, the more endorphin hormone is released into your body making you feel less pain and put you in a better mood.
However, your body gets addicted to endorphin just like to any other narcotics such as morphine, cocaine and others (a bit drastic example, but I’m sure you get the point).
Therefore taking some time off to heal from running-related injuries will wreck havoc on your mood and pain tolerance, as your body demands for its usual amount of endorphin hormone. You will find yourself getting mad at people for things you never get mad for, thanks to running.
5. Running Will Not Build Muscle
The last, and in my opinion, one of the most important cons, is that running alone will not build muscle mass and thus prevent you from reaping the benefits such as burning calories while you sleep and rest.
The muscle mass is extremely important. The more of it you have (I am not saying you need to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his young days), the more calories you burn on your days off.
While cardio exercises are extremely important to boost your anabolic growth hormone that is necessary to build muscle mass, running will not actually build it. Therefore, running alone is perhaps not the best physical activity you should start with.
At the end of the day, it’s you who will have to decide whether or not running is the right exercise to go with. The quick review of benefits and risks of running is here to help, and should certainly be looked at seriously.
One of the alternatives to running is jump rope workouts. Here you can find its pros and cons and give it a shot if you feel running is not your thing after all.
However, everyone is different. While majority of new runners are most likely to experience the above-mentioned issues, some of you may enjoy the benefits it has to offer right from the start.