In the US alone, 65 million people reported running between 2008 and 2014.3 There is a growing popularity in Australia also. If you want proof of this, head to the MCG in a couple of weeks and watch the countless runners on Melbourne Marathon day. Although popular, running can be risky business. A recent review reported an injury incidence between 19 and 78%.4 Common injuries include runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain), ITB syndrome, Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, tendinopathies at the hip, and the list goes on and on.
If running can hurt so much why do we do it?
Despite the large number of injuries, running is well and truly worth it. We just have to make sure we are sensible about how much and how often we do (more on this for a later blog). So what are the likely benefits of regular running participation? Here are 5 of the many benefits I always talk to patients about and remind myself of on those days where motivation to get out and run is lacking:
1. Running is great for your general health
Running is a great way to increase our heart rate and achieve the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. This will improve bone and muscle strength, as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.
2. Running helps you maintain a healthy weight (and eat more great food)
Because running burns so many calories quickly, it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Or if you are like me, a relatively healthy weight and enjoy more of life’s great pleasures (e.g. chocolate) without putting on more weight.
3. Running helps keep the mind sharp
Research suggests regular execise such as running helps slow age related mental decline and improve memory. So put the books down, go for a run and come back fresh.
4. Running makes you happy and can be a great stress relief
When we run, our body releases natural endorphins which are like a natural drug to make us feel good. This is why so many runners talk about wanting that ‘running high’. Careful though, like any drug, getting the next fix can be addictive
5. Running helps you to create great friendships
With the growing popularity of running, there are now many run groups for runners of all levels to join, from beginners to elite. These can offer great companionship during runs and friends to join you for those all-important post run refuels (e.g. great breakfast at your local café)
So is the risk of a running injury worth it? For me, YES – I don’t want heart or respiratory disease, diabetes or cancer. Additionally, I like my food, a lot, and I want to feel healthy and happy!
1. Department of Health PA, Health Improvement and Protection. Start Active, Stay Active. 2011.
2. NHS. Benefits of Exercise. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/fitness/pages/whybeactive.aspx. Accessed 6th December, 2011.
3. Statistica. Number of joggers/runners: Number of people who went jogging or running within the last 12 months in the United States (USA) from spring 2008 to spring 2014 (in millions). Available at: Accessed July 2nd 2015, 2015.
4. van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop M, et al. Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2007;41:469-480.