Running myths vs. reality : What are the benefits of running?
For a long time, it was said that running could damage your knees and that it was too hard on the body. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Indeed, scientific studies show that running has incredible benefits. For example, it can reduce your chances of developing all sorts of illnesses, including osteoporosis and even cancer. Basically, running can help you live longer!
The latest research is also quite clear that running does not cause damage to your bones; in fact, it’s good for them. The body needs repetitive mechanical stress to become strong. Repeated impact on the ground not only prevents osteoporosis, but also reinforces cartilage. It can even prevent osteoarthritis. In other words, running is good for your knees!
Reasons to take up running
Running has several benefits:
- It strengthens your joints, muscles, and bones
- It prevents osteoporosis
- It stimulates blood circulation
- It helps control or prevent certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease
- It improves your health and fitness
- It relieves stress, clears your mind, and promotes restful sleep
However, it’s essential to ease into running. Your body will adapt only as long as the mechanical stress it’s subjected to doesn’t exceed your tissues’ capacity to adapt.
With running, progression is the key to avoiding injury. The muscle structures involved in running (e.g., tendons, cartilage) are rather slow to adapt because of low vascularization. Your body needs time to adapt to the repetitive impact and get stronger. But how do you go about doing things gradually? Before you start running, you must first be able to walk for at least 30 minutes on a regularly basis (four times a week is ideal).
Running : Where to begin
If you want to get into running, try following this method to build a routine:
- Start by integrating three reps of 1-minute runs to your 30-minute walk.
- Add an additional running rep each time you go for a walk.
- Then, alternate up to fifteen 1-minute runs with 1-minute walks.
- Now you can add 2 minutes of continuous running by doing three sets of 2-minute runs and 1-minute walks.
- Add one more rep each time you go for a walk/run until your 30 minutes consist of 2-minute runs and 1-minute walks.
- Repeat this process with 3, 4, 9, and 14 minutes of running.
- Always add one rep at a time.
- By progressing this way, you’ll see that within 12 weeks, you’ll be able to run for 30 consecutive minutes!
- Later, if you want to do more or if you’re already a runner, note that it’s highly recommended to increase your running time by no more than 10% per week. Otherwise, you increase your risk of injury.
- Remember to listen to your body. If you start to feel pain, go back one or two steps in your progression rather than stopping altogether. Every runner is unique and adapts at their own pace.
Technique and footwear
Don’t forget that you once had to learn how to walk; now, you have to learn how to run!
Here are two simple pieces of advice when it comes to proper running technique: take small steps and try to be as light on your feet as you can.
To do this, force yourself, as soon as you start, to adopt a rhythm of about three steps per second (180 steps/minute) and try to make as little sound as possible on the ground. You can also imagine yourself running barefoot on a very hard surface. These handy tips will contribute to reducing your impact on the ground and, by the same token, the mechanical stress on your joints.
Now, what type of shoes should you wear? It’s important, especially if you’ve just taken up running, to have a shoe that allows as much ground sensation as possible. It should minimize the interface between foot and ground and have as little reinforcement as possible. This applies to most runners. Overprotecting the foot leads to long-term weakening; having a shoe that is too supportive is like having a lumbar belt to protect your back as soon as you do an activity. In this situation, it’s obvious that you will weaken your back muscles.
The same applies to your feet. Make them work so they can get stronger! Your knees and back will thank you. By exercising regularly, you’ll also contribute to controlling or even preventing many potentially fatal diseases, such as high blood pressure and other heart problems. In this way, running can help reduce the need for medication. In short, go for a run!
Running is beneficial and accessible to everyone. Just make sure you start gradually, one minute at a time, and that you listen to your body. Run often (more than three times a week), take small steps, stay light on your feet, and wear simple shoes. Put all of that together and you’ve got the recipe for smart running!
A collaboration with Eric Boucher
physiotherapist and running specialist
Last updated on May 12, 2022