Saturday, December 27, 2014

Run for your Life: Run for Longevity and Quality of Life

*Disclaimer: I am a physical therapist, not a physician or dietician; therefore please do not change your diet or exercise habits without approval from a qualified professional.*

The reasons why people run are countless. It ranges from trying to burn off last night’s dinner, to more profound reasons as mentioned in my first post ‘Why Suffer?’. One of the best reasons is for health. No matter what anyone tells you, running is in no way, shape, or form bad for you (in any normal circumstances). The most common rebuttal I hear is that running causes you to develop osteoarthritis in your knees and hips. Go ahead and do a quick Google search, you’ find mostly articles like these:
Running Might Protect Against Knee Osteoarthritis
Marathon Training Doesn’t Hurt Knees, Even In Beginners
Why Don’t More Runners Get Knee Arthritis?
Running Linked to Lower Arthritis Rates
The Persistent Myth of Running and Arthritis

             You get the point. Another argument I hear a lot is that excessive running can cause cardiac disease. At first I think, “why would someone even publicize something like that?” Let’s just deter people from taking action towards a healthier lifestyle and tell them “don’t go for a run, it might give you heart disease”. Nonsense. I have read articles from sources as big as Runner’s World that tell their readers that they’re wrong if they think sedentary and overweight individuals have a higher risk of clogged arteries than marathoners despite a poorly designed study and inconsistency across the literature. Long story short, running is good for your heart, not bad. Aerobic activity (like running) can help to decrease blood lipids that are responsible for the plaque in your arteries that causes heart disease.

With the huge growth in running's popularity, it seems likely that we will hear more stories about runners dying on the run.
                                                                            -Runner's World Magazine.

                Some believe that Phedippides suffered from exercise-induced cardiomyopathy, but this cannot be proven. With logic, we can deduce that this was likely not the case. The legends proclaim that Phedippides died of sudden cardiac death immediately after running 26.2 miles from the battle field of Marathon to the people of Athens to announce their victory over the Persians. Before this point Phedippides had run 153 miles to ask for aide from Sparta, only to be denied. Phedippides had to quickly return to the Athenians to warn them that they would be on their own; another arduous journey by foot. Soon after Phedippides’ return, the Athenians rallied and fought off the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. Phedippides, as the great athlete he was, ran one last time to deliver the news to Athens.

Phedippides had run approximately 280 miles in what historians believe to be about 10 days. That equates to more than a marathon per day. Now, do you think that it is implausible that Phedippides could have died from dehydration, heat-exhaustion, or wounds? Yup, it was sudden cardiac death… right? No, not likely.

                Enough about dead Greeks, what if I told you, runners live longer lives. Common sense right? I didn’t have to tell you, well surprisingly some people went ahead and did a study on it anyway. The thing is, they found out that you only need to run 5-10 minutes a day to add 3 years (on average) to your life! Most of you reading this probably run way more than 5-10 minutes a day, so good for you, maybe if we keep running we’ll be able to achieve immortality. Running is the fountain of youth, if there ever was one.
                Running makes us happy. No really, not just because we like to do it, there are massive psychological benefits. A “runner’s high” is a real thing, and it’s actually just as effective as depression and anxiety medication, just without the debilitating side effects. The only side effects to running are the other health benefits mentioned in this post, and maybe some muscle soreness which is basically you getting stronger and faster.

                Bone grows when it is stressed. This is greatly beneficial for anyone who doesn’t want to break bones. The amount of bone density that you acquire before your mid-twenties will determine approximately at what age your bone mineral density will decrease to critical levels. Let me explain, after about 40 years old, your bone density starts to decrease. If you have built up your bone density (with running per say) then you will have more to work with over time. Don’t worry for those of you that started running post-twenties. Bone density loss can be attenuated with running; therefore you are delaying that point in time where your density reaches critical levels. Why is this important? Because simple fractures commonly and easily lead to death in older adults. So keep on pounding those feet of yours (not too hard though).  On that note, I might as well mention that runners beat out cyclists in this category, with cyclists being ~7 times more likely to develop critical levels of bone density. Woo hoo! Go runners!

                I may expand on this topic in the future, but I don’t want to make this post too long or boring. I don’t want people to “believe” that running is good for them, I want them to “know” it. When entertaining claims that running is bad from one approach or another, please use discretion and call them out on their sources. Use the above knowledge and information to counter any appropriate argument, and remember to be respectful. If your motivation to run does not already relate to its health benefits, may you now be endowed with some information to allow it to become a catalyst for your running.

Exercise is the key to not only physical health, but to peace of mind.
-Nelson Mandela