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The pros and cons of running

Few physical activities inspire the devotion that avid runners have for running. Millions of individuals across the globe lace up their sneakers and run for miles on end each day, and the fitness experts at Fitbit note that running is the most popular activity in the world.

Medical experts generally suggest the rewards of running outweigh the risks for healthy individuals.
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The global popularity of running suggests it’s an activity that’s all gravy and no grief. However, running can take a toll on a body, and individuals who can’t wait to lace up their sneakers and hit the road should consider the pros and cons of running before doing so.

Pros



• Running and heart health: Running generally has a positive effect on heart health. The heart is a muscle, and much like weight training can help strengthen muscles like biceps and triceps, running can strengthen the heart and make it more efficient. Cardiologists with the Copenhagen City Heart Study noted that jogging increases oxygen uptake, which makes it easier for the heart to pump a larger amount of blood and do its job more easily. In addition, various studies have found that running can reduce individuals’ risk for heart disease by a significant percentage.

• Running and mental health: “Runner’s high” is a well-documented yet not entirely understood phenomenon. Thought it’s often associated with the release of mood-enhancing hormones known as endorphins and characterized as a routine and euphoric byproduct of running, experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine note that research indicates very few runners actually experience runner’s high. Instead, runners may feel good after running because physical activity increases levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstream. Higher levels of endocannabinoids may promote short-term responses like reduced anxiety and a greater feeling of calm. This is an important distinction, as runners who don’t feel runner’s high after a long run should know that they’re likely still gaining some mental benefit from running, even if a long run makes them feel more nauseous than euphoric.



• Running and brain power: Running also has been found to benefit brain power. Researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany found that individuals who jogged for 30 minutes per day three times a week benefitted from a substantial improvement in concentration and visual memory.

Cons

• Running and joint health: Though many medical professionals now dispute that there’s a link between running and osteoarthritis, running can lead to wear and tear on the joints over time. It’s important to note that such degeneration can occur even in non-runners, especially those who live sedentary lifestyles. Being physically active is an important part of maintaining long-term joint health, but individuals who like to run should be sure to devise a balanced workout regimen that includes strength training to make the muscles and tissues around joints stronger. Running without strength training could contribute to unhealthy joints.

• Running and injury risk: All physical activities involve some measure of injury risk, but it’s still worth noting that runners are not immune to such risks. The Cleveland Clinic notes as many as 60 percent of runners will experience injuries that sideline them for several weeks or months. Plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, shin splits, and Achilles tendinitis are some injuries commonly suffered by runners. Common running injuries can make it hard to perform any cardiovascular exercise, which can have a significant and adverse effect on runners’ overall health.

Though medical experts generally suggest the rewards of running outweigh the risks for healthy individuals, it’s still important that men and women weigh the pros and cons before lacing up their running shoes.

 


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