Is frequent long distance running harmful to our bodies?
Does frequent long distance running such as taking part in full marathon or weekly training of at least 10km in each run will slowly kill our body?
Thanks for your question – another great one! I often am asked by people whether running is bad for you and my general response is the same as Dr Ethan – no!
Running is a natural process and if you look at children, it is one of the most joyous activities that one can do – for free! As with Dr Ethan, its not something that I enjoy particularly, but in the not too distant past, I did my fair share.
The main issue with running is that many of us don’t do it regularly and then on a whim or for a challenge, we decide that that is the way we are going to “get fit again” – wrong.
If you haven’t been running for a while and then go straight back into long distances, the likelihood is that you will pick up some kind of injury. This is usually because over time, we lose our inherent ability to run and must “re-learn” how to do so.
Equally, there is often de-conditioning associated with our day-to-day lives; this means that we become weaker in muscles that are required for propulsion and efficient locomotion during running.
Finally, as we get older and various areas of our body stiffen and get tighter, our running pattern can change.
So, running is not bad. Running is great. The issue is that many of us don’t show running the same respect that we would to another sport.
If you are keen on starting running or returning to it after a hiatus, i would suggest the following:
1. Consider a pre-participation screening if you are generally sedentary, don’t do much exercise or have had a change in your health. Its better to know what level of physical activity is suitable for you to start with and how to then progress.
2. Consider attending a running gait analysis. Lots of running shoe shops “provide” this service, but their aim is often to convince you to buy a particular type of sports shoe. My suggestion is to see someone independent, such as a sports physiotherapist or sports podiatrist who can give you impartial advice. Make sure they do not have affiliations with particular shoe companies too.
3. Use SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-framed) goals to build up your running
4. If you get any symptoms whilst running, then offload initially and assess your symptoms. If they persist, get someone to look into it early rather than when you have a full-blown injury
Good luck with your running and again, great question! BW
Hi there Allen – The short answer is no, if you go about training for marathons in an appropriate and progressive manner.
Long distance running and taking part in marathons requires a certain level of expertise, experience and technique – which is unfortunately something not many people realise. This results in chronic type of injuries in the longer run (no pun intended), as one ages.
Even though I’m personally not a fan of long distance running myself, largely due to the weather in Singapore, scientific literature is still pretty equivocal as to whether the benefits outweigh the risks of long-distance running.
Moderate amounts of running is known not to cause osteoarthritis – it’s even been shown that it has a protective effect on joints.
However, overuse joint injuries are very common among distance runners. The hypothesis is that repeated trauma over time can wear away cartilage in your joints. Joint injuries is a common cause of secondary osteoarthritis.
With long runs, maintaining proper form becomes more difficult as you get more fatigued, which will also make you more prone to injury.
In summary, I’d recommend training with fellow experienced runners. Treat long distance running like you would any other highly intensity sport, and know when to give your body a rest.