The “unhealthy running impacts” Myth

The “unhealthy running impacts” Myth

Myth: Running is a bad exercise because of impacts.

We must identify what type of impacts are present, as well as evaluate the physical condition and the motor patterns of the practitionner (“how” that person moves) before we are able to determine if a physical activity is appropriate. While it is possible that running be discouraged for a portion of the population*, it must be known that this myth’s statement, because it is abusively overgeneralizing, is certainly false.

(* Some conditions of the muscular and/or skeletal systems may affect your capacity to safely perform certain exercises. Also, certain metabolic conditions such as diabetes may, in some cases, cause a loss of sensation in the lower limbs. If necessary, consult your doctor before engaging in a training program with an accredited kinesiologist.)

Running is an exercise which requires the participation of numerous muscular groups and its energy cost make it a very beneficial activity in maintaining a healthy body composition. Furthermore, being an exercise with a strong aerobic component, it results in beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It allows one to easily attain a higher intensity level compared to walking.

Are there impacts during running ?
Are they harmful ?
Only if they are excessive.
Medium to high-intensity exercise, that implies various muscular groups and has moderate impacts, tends to preserve muscular mass and bone density (diminishing osteoporosis risks)

What are the possible causes of excessive impacts ?

– A significant weight excess (obesity), for example, results in a higher force impact. The kinesiologist may suggest alternative activities.
– Incorrect running technique. The majority of people needs to re-learn how to run.

Why do we adopt bad running technique ?

– Bad running shoes
– Loss in physical fitness caused by chronic inactivity
– Being unaware of what constitutes proper running technique

The running shoes

Part of the industry states, in error, that running shoes with extra-thick soles and offering ultra-stability are a means to prevent injuries related to running.

No running shoe offers total shock absorption. This is impossible. It can only redistribute the impact energy over a longuer period of time and larger contact surface. This prevents you from feeling the impacts at the superficial level (at the surface of the feet), though you may still feel them, in long-term, at your knees, and even hips.

And it is there that the running shoe becomes problematic. By preventing you from feeling direct contact with the ground; by preventing the mechanoreceptors of your feet to perform their function and signal the presence of excessive impacts caused by your defective motor pattern, they contribute to maintain improper running technique which can cause problems in long-term.

Try the following experiment:
– Find a space where you can run for a short distance, safely. Make sure there are no objects on the ground.
– Wearing your very best running shoes, jog. Notice what happens when your feet come in contact with the ground. Which part comes in contact first ? Is it the heel ?
– Remove your shoes and repeat the exercise. Notice that after a few runs, you might be running differently. You instinctively seek to prevent feeling the pain of the heel-strike; rather you make contact with a midfoot or forefoot strike in a more gentle manner.

It is not necessary to be barefoot to have proper running technique. However, it is important that you choose running shoes which are adapted to you, and specific to the physical activity you practice. For example, I use a lightweight pair, with thin sole and little shock absorption for running, whereas I use a more traditionnal pair, of the “multisport” variety, for most of my other physical activities.

Effects of physical inactivity

Physical inactivity is not only at the root of negative health effects, it also increases the difficulty in the eventual adoption of a physical training program. However, after testing your physical condition, it is possible to elaborate a safe and well-adapted running exercise program. In combination with good coaching and learning additional running technique tips and development tools, this fabulous and safe physical activity becomes pleasant, stimulating, and, when incorporated into a global exercise program, beneficial to your health.

Patrick Roy-V., B.Sc. Kin

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