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Is Running a Vice or a Virtue?

Discover the pros and cons of running as a workout.
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Is Running a Vice or a Virtue?

I go out for a run every once in a while. Well, five times within the last two years, to be more exact. Every time I do, my chest is sore, I am gasping for air, I don’t know where to tuck my arms, and I feel desperate for the lap to finish and my conscience to let me go home and die in peace. What am I doing wrong? Today, I am determined to find out.

Running is a very popular sport

Why is Running So Popular?

I haven’t even thought before now why I decided I needed to run at all. Turns out, the answer lies in the contradictory combination of ease and intensity that the activity offers:

  • Running doesn’t require expensive equipment or customized outfits, just lace up your trainers and go!
  • People of all ages can do running.
  • You can run everywhere, from desert to mountains, at home even, if you can afford to buy your own treadmill.
  • The intensity of running causes a release of endorphins, which, in their turn, produce the effect known as “runner’s high.” Running thus becomes a sort of antidepressant!
  • Running is associated with slimming and is believed to give the results that show quickly.
  • Compared to that of a non-runner, a runner’s lifespan is five to seven years longer!
  • Running stimulates breathing, thus increasing oxygen intake, thus improving your cardiac function, lowering your BP, and increasing insulin sensitivity!
  • Running boosts brain functions! Studies showed that people who made 3 30-minute running sessions a week had improved visual memory and maintained better focus than those who did not run at all.
  • Running – in fact, even sporadic efforts - increases bone mass density, thanks to increased load on the femur.
  • Mature age runners have a lower metabolic cost than those who lead a sedentary life. In fact, their metabolic cost is similar to that of 20-somethings! In case you are wondering, I googled “metabolic cost,” and it is the amount of energy that a body burns to move, which increases with age.

I guess I knew some of that on the subconscious level, and so, I fell for running and could not wait to post my first sweaty red-faced selfie afterward.

Running is a high-risk activity

How Running Can Be Dangerous

But running failed to meet my expectations. It turned out to be straining, stressful, and downright boring. I felt being watched and judged because I didn’t know how to do things right. Plus I ate a couple dozen gnats in the process. Either this or complete exhaustion made me feel nauseous afterward. Turns out, many people find it hard, and here is why:

  • Running is a high-risk activity in terms of injury.
  • It takes a toll on leg joints, knees, back, and kidneys, loading them with 4 times as much weight as they are normally used to dealing with. The toll, however, is not as heavy as was once thought, but still, runners who are prone to joint trauma or are suffering from obesity face a risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Female runners face irreversible breast sagging.
  • Running in the city increases exhaust intake due to stimulated breathing.
  • Continuous exposure to sunlight during runs increases skin cancer risks.
  • So do cytokines – proteins that are produced in response to trauma and tend to suppress the immune function.
  • Running tends to turn into an addiction quickly. A running addict who missed a run because of a force major can be intolerable.

I have to admit: having learned all that, I am now in doubt. Should I keep trying or is it better to forget about pumped calves?

Consult your doctor before you go in for running

To Run or Not to Run

Of course, it’s up to you – and your doctor – to decide whether you can go in for running. I have not yet made up my mind either, but I am moving in that direction already and collecting tips on how to make running less damaging for the body:

  • The best surface for running is the one that is springy. Look for dirt paths and cinder tracks. If these are unavailable in your area, asphalt will do. But never – I am serious, NEVER! – run on concrete if you don’t want to shock your joints.
  • You running shoes should be made specifically for running, and they should be well-made, too.
  • Running shoes tend to wear out. As soon as you notice yours have started, replace them with a new pair.
  • I should wear an athletic bra, and if you are a female runner, you should as well. Studies show that special breast support garments help to reduce sagging by 78%!
  • If you run in hot weather, make sure you drink enough water to replace the amount you’ve sweat out.
  • Do not run on busy streets to avoid inhaling too much exhaust fumes.
  • Pay attention to the pains you are feeling. If, say, your joints become painful, cut down on the intensity or stop running altogether until you – and your doctor – find out why you are feeling this pain.
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