A June Healthy Headlines article discussed how running can extend your life, now researchers have determined that running can also improve your bone health.
Women who run for as little as one minute day had 4 percent better bone health than those who did less than a minute., scientists from the University of Exeter and the University of Leicester in England found in a recent study.
“We don’t yet know whether it’s better to accumulate this small amount of exercise in bits throughout each day or all at once, and also whether a slightly longer bout of exercise on one or two days per week is just as good as 1-2 minutes a day,” lead author Dr. Victoria Stiles of the University of Exeter said in a press release from the school. “But there’s a clear link between this kind of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise and better bone health in women.”
Specifically, researchers based their findings on a medium-paced run for pre-menopausal women, or a slow jog for post-menopausal women.
For anyone interested in increasing their day-to-day levels of activity, Stiles said: “The UK’s National Osteoporosis Society recommends increasing your walking activity first. Further on, we would suggest adding a few running steps to the walk, a bit like you might if you were running to catch a bus.”
Moreover the university reported: “As well as finding 4 percent better bone health among women who did one to two minutes of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise, (researchers) found 6 percent better bone health among those who did more than two minutes a day.”
The paper was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Start slowly and build up
“Running is the most efficient form of exercise,” said Dr. Chris Christakos, a family and sports medicine specialist at Novant Health Forysth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Cycling and swimming are also good forms of exercise, but some people may not have access to a swimming pool.”
Running improves heart health because it causes the body to work at high capacity. As a person’s heart rate rises, blood flow is shunted to the legs, said Christakos. The increased heart rate also supplies muscles with added oxygen. “Working the heart muscle improves the resting heart rate and decreases blood pressure,” he said. “It also strengthens lung function.”
Many runners say they experience a “runner’s high” when jogging. That is due to a kick in endorphins, which cause a euphoric state, Christakos said. When a runner achieves this state varies by the individual. “It can also be caused by an emotional state due to setting and reaching a goal such as training for a 5K race,” he said.
Runners are often susceptible to injury. Common problems are shin splints, knee problems and lower back pain, the doctor said. “This can be addressed by working on technique and engaging in physical therapy,” Christakos said. “Proper footwear is very important.” The doctor recommends getting fitted for the right shoe at a store that specializes in running footwear to reduce the incidence of injury.
He also warns new runners not to increase mileage too rapidly. “Start slowly and gradually build up your distance in order to avoid injury,” Christakos said. Warming up muscles prior to running will also reduce injury, as will stretching quadriceps and hamstring muscles after running. A foam roller to massage the legs following a run is a good investment as well.
When running, Christakos said it’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it. Runners should limit running to three to four days a week, he said, and do weight training exercises on other days. “Not everybody is built to be a marathoner,” he said. “If you are prone to injuries, reduce your distance.”