Whether it’s early in the morning, or a post-work detox, heading out for a run can be a liberating workout to fuel the mind and body.
When the runner’s high kicks in and the endorphins are pumping, you can feel invincible – but that doesn’t mean that you are. Going out for a daily run has the potential to cause damage to the body, rather than just helping it.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lushun Wang told Newsweek that he has “a list of concerns” for those who go out running excessively. The strain of such a high-impact exercise can cause irreparable damage to the body, especially joints such as the knees and hips.
‘Running Puts Stress on Your Joints, Particularly Knees’
Many people tout the phrase “runner’s knees” when talking about stiffness or achiness in their joints, but this can lead to a serious problem, according to Wang. Without “adequate rest and recovery,” the doctor says that runners can develop osteoarthritis in their knees as a complication of too much stress and impact on the joint.
“Over time, excessive running without proper techniques can wear out the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones. This is because running puts stress on your joints, particularly your knees,” he explained.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, it can be treated with physical therapy, weight loss, or surgery in some cases. Exercise may also work as a treatment, but it should be a low-impact activity like swimming, cycling or walking.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Catching the runner’s bug is real—that feeling of being unstoppable on the final dash towards home, with your favorite playlist blaring through your earphones. You might be keen to add another mile to your route as it becomes more comfortable or head out more regularly during your favorite season. But too much running can cause a repetitive strain, especially when not enough care is taken.
“Overuse injuries are common in runners who push themselves too hard,” Wang explained to Newsweek. “This could be excessively long runs or numerous short spurts of running without proper care. These injuries can range from minor issues, like blisters, to more serious conditions like stress fractures and Achilles tendonitis.”
The strenuous nature of running, especially on a hard surface like a sidewalk, can cause wear and tear in the knees and hips. Fitting in a sufficient warm-up before the run, and a warm-down afterward will place the body in a better position to tackle the route and recover from it.
‘More Susceptible to Illnesses and Infections’
When runners get too caught up in training for their upcoming race, or so determined to accomplish their next target, they might forget to put their body first. Running takes a physical toll, so forcing yourself to go for a run when that’s the last thing the body needs could make you feel worse, Wang says.
“While exercise generally helps to boost immunity, pushing yourself too hard without proper rest could lead to the opposite outcome,” he told Newsweek, adding that runners could make themselves ‘more susceptible to illnesses and infections’ if they overexert themselves and don’t balance it out with enough rest.
People often say that fresh air is good for the soul, but it’s also fundamentally important to listen to your body and know when it needs a rest.
‘Hormonal Imbalances and Potential Bone Health’
A lesser-known complication caused by too much running is secondary amenorrhea, which is the lack of menstruation.
“Women may experience amenorrhea, which is missed periods, due to excessive running and the stress that it puts on the body,” Wang explained. “This may lead to hormonal imbalances and potential bone health issues, like osteoporosis.”
Common causes of secondary amenorrhea include menopause, stress, poor nutrition, weight loss and over-exercising, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can be tested for by blood tests, genetic screening or a hormone test.
If too much exercise or weight change is the concern, then medical practitioners will discuss the necessary steps to take to overcome it and help the body regulate itself again. This might include scaling back on running or other physical exercises.
‘Running Might Contribute To Heart Issues’
Running is known for increasing cardiovascular fitness, but Wang also notes that it can cause complications that runners need to be wary of. For this reason, he implores people to listen to their bodies and look out for any changes they might notice.
“Excessively running long distances might contribute to heart issues, like arrhythmia,” he said. “While it’s usually good for your heart health, listening to your body and taking the rest that is required will garner positive results and effects too.”
After sharing the “damaging effects of running,” Wang hastened to add that they aren’t guarantees for all runners, but simply complications that can arise if a runner doesn’t take proper care of their body.
‘Taking the Pressure Off Is Key’
There are also mental effects from running, too. General practitioner Dr. Johannes Uys told Newsweek that overloading yourself with dangerous expectations can take running from a fun exercise to a debilitating commitment.
“An aspect that I ask runners to be mindful of is the potential impact on their mental well-being,” Uys said. “While running is often touted as a stress reliever, excessive training, or unrealistic expectations, can quickly lead to burnout and mental fatigue. Especially if you are training with a set target in mind, such as a marathon.
“It’s important to strike a balance, allowing for rest days and engaging in activities that provide mental relaxation or variety outside of running. You should also be willing to take it easy now and then, swapping out the run for a jog or a walk.”
He added that “taking the pressure off is key to staying safe” and can also contribute to progress in the long term.
Running is supposed to be enjoyable, but if it becomes a laborious chore that runners feel obliged to do, it might be time to reflect and consider another exercise to get the blood pumping.
The post Why Your Daily Run Could Cause More Harm Than Good, According to a Doctor appeared first on Newsweek.