Running is a wildly popular sport and growing. In 2020, over 50 million Americans participated in running or jogging. During the pandemic, there was an increase of 65% in running and jogging activities. In the same year, users of running apps logged about 37.3% more miles.
It’s safe to say, a lot of people are into running. So what are the pros and cons of this sport?
Pros of running
Duck-Chul Lee published a study in 2017 that found that running has a significant impact on your longevity, up to a 25% to 40% reduced risk. Runners also live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners!
You’ve heard that running can improve your cardiovascular health but what does that even mean? In short, cardiovascular health is the health of your heart and blood vessels. As your heart rate increases, more blood will be pumped into your muscles. This means more blood, aka more oxygen and nutrients, is going directly where you need it.
Running will also lower your resting heart rate. This is how many times your heart beats per minute while you are resting. This is a good indicator of your overall health. Generally, the lower the number, the more efficient your heart is working.
Running builds muscle and increases strength as well as bone density. This study from the University of Missouri found that high-impact activities, like running, increase bone density. Having strong bones will better support your body, posture, and balance.
As you know, sleep is when your body repairs itself. Running can provide you with better quality of sleep. This means you will recover faster and more efficiently.
Another positive of running is that it can aid in weight loss. According to the American Council on Exercise education resource, Fit Facts, running burns the most calories per minute. The runner-up? Jogging.
Burning more calories will lower your body fat percentage. Your body fat percentage tells you how much of your body is composed of fat. Your age will determine the appropriate percentage range for your body.
Let’s not forget the mental benefits! You’ve probably heard of runner’s high. This is where your brain releases endorphins that act as a stimulant in your body. In turn, this means running is great for stress management.
Speaking of brain chemicals, running can prevent cognitive decline. The activity increases the chemical production responsible for memory and learning.
Lastly, running is accessible. It requires very little equipment. All you need is a pair of running shoes. If you’re running outside, you can also reconnect with nature and get a boost of Vitamin D!
Cons of running
As you can see, running has numerous benefits both physically and mentally. However, there are some disadvantages to be aware of.
First off, it’s tough on your weight-bearing joints. If you have previous joint damage or are carrying extra weight, this can exacerbate the issue.
Runners are prone to injuries such as shin splints or knee pain. The culprit for most running injuries is overuse. This includes training errors, such as too much intensity, too fast, and the use of orthotics.
To avoid this, begin with walking by slowly adding speed and distance. Eventually, you will work your way up to running.
Bad form can also lead to injuries, specifically in your lower body. This includes your hips, knees, and ankles. According to RunRepeat, 37 - 70% of runners get injured yearly. Learn proper form before starting to run. Adding strength training to your regimen as well can help avoid injuries.
What is the proper form?
Start in a neutral stance, standing tall with a slight lean forward. As you start moving, pay attention to your shoulders. If they start to creep towards your ears, take a moment to rest back to neutral.
Keep both of your arms at 90 degree angles. When they swing as you run, it’s front to back. Don’t clench your fists and try to keep your upper body loose. Learn your proper stride length and avoid bouncing. Focus on your breathing pattern. Inhale through your nose and out through your mouth.
It takes practice. Remember, when participating in any form of exercise, form is imperative.
When in doubt, listen to your body. If you notice a problem, seek medical attention. That being said, you should always consult a medical professional before starting any new exercise program.
So is it worth it?
Yes! As with any sport, there are going to be pros and cons. In short, the advantages, such as increasing cardiovascular health, calories burned and mental benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
To avoid injury, slowly progress into a running routine and focus on proper form. Before you know it, you too will understand why so many people are going for a run!
Running is a wildly popular sport that has numerous benefits that outweigh the cons.
Benefits include increased total body health, better sleep, and mental health advantages.
The disadvantages of running are joint pain and injury.
Start slowly and focus on proper form to avoid injury.
RunRepeat. 120+ Running Statistics 2021/2022.
Science Direct. Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity.
The University of Edinburgh. Health Benefits of Different Sports Disciplines for Adults.