Regardless of the reasons or motivations, there are many health benefits for those that pick up this sport.
|Kate E. Temme, MD,|
There are, though, risks that go along with this sport. Runners are at a high risk for injury, especially those affecting the lower extremities. Knee injuries make up approximately 40% of running injuries, with runner's knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) being the most common knee complaint.
With that being said, there are some tips that beginners (or those that have taken an extended break from the sport) should follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
If you are recovering from an injury or have an existing health condition, check with your doctor to make sure running is the right activity for you. If you've run in the past, but haven't been active in a while, build up your level slowly, before returning to your previous routine. Do a warm up for a few minutes each time and add a few minutes or some distance on to your run every few days.
Some believe that the more you run, the less susceptible you are to injury. This is not the case, though, as the repetitive nature of running increases the risk of overuse injuries. Lower extremity injuries are especially common in those who run more than 40 miles per week. Distance runners have the highest rates of stress fractures among athletes, with women being more susceptible than men. Training errors as well as nutritional deficits, among other things, increase the risk of injury to bone.
Given that stress fracture treatment may require a lengthy absence from running, prevention becomes an important goal. Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) may lead to stress fractures and should be addressed with appropriate activity modification to prevent progression.
"Slowly increasing your mileage and intensity, avoiding abrupt changes in running surfaces, replacing shoes every six months or 300-400 miles, incorporating rest days into your training schedule and maximizing your calcium and vitamin D intake are all important for stress fracture prevention," said Dr. Temme. "Most importantly, ensuring that you are eating enough to fuel your body AND your sport is paramount for bone health. Seeking expert advice from a Sports Physician or Sports Dietitian can help ensure you are meeting your unique nutritional needs for safe training and competition."
Regardless of the distance you decide to run, the number of times per week you do so, know that you are taking a step in the right direction for your health. Set small goals for yourself and fight that mental battle to achieve them. Join running groups, get your friends involved, whatever you need to do to stay inspired. As long as you are moving, you are achieving.
"Running is a convenient, economical and portable sport with many physical and emotional benefits," says Dr. Temme. "When introduced gradually, and with adequate attention to injury prevention, running can be enjoyed safely for years to come."