Running and Bone Health

by Editor on April 24, 2012

When it comes to boosting bone health and fighting off bone problems, weight-bearing exercises are the ideal prevention training approach. According to many studies, weight-bearing exercises—especially running—have proven effects on promoting good bone health and warding off many serious problems such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Nevertheless, many people still held the outdated belief that running is bad for the bones. Ask almost anyone outside of the running society about marathon running, and the first thing that will pop into their minds is crippling bone problems (and other mistruths).

If you are skeptical about running as a means to improve bone health, here are some things you need to know.

Running, Bone Problems and Scientific Studies

If you’re looking to ward off osteoporosis (which affects more than 200 million people worldwide) running is the way to go. According to a study conducted at the University of Missouri, the researchers have come to the conclusion that running improves bone density—especially in the hips and spine—better than resistance training and other exercise programs.

In another study conducted by the American Running & Fitness Association, researchers have reached similar conclusions: running promotes higher bone density. Not only that, the study concluded that runners have stronger bones than sedentary people, thus runners enjoy better health level with lower incidence rates and visits to the hospital yard.

Furthermore, no link between endurance running and accelerated rates of osteoarthritis has been proven to exist. This is the conclusion of a study published by Lane and co-investigator in 1993. The researcher found no clear-cut disproportion in the incidence of osteoarthritis among runners and sedentary people.

Look At Your Physiology

By simply taking a glimpse at the biomechanics of the human body, it is easy to conclude that our species have evolved to move. Walking and running are built in into the very nature of our existence. Over thousands of years of roaming the planet, humans have needed to move upright on legs to survive—whether to hunt for dinner or escape the claws of a predator. Evolution has equipped us with the right tools for a reason. Embrace your need for speed.

Why so many runners get injured

Running is not 100% percent safe activity. It is high impact and repetitive, and that can cause trouble. The root cause of most running injuries is trying to do too much too soon without providing the body with ample recovery so it can adapt to the training load.

You can still run and steer clear of injuries by doing the following:

  • Consume enough calcium. This mineral helps you maintain healthy bones.
  • Keep exercising within your fitness level. Start the intensity slowly and build it up gradually.
  • Always start your workouts with a decent warm-up and end it with a cool down.
  • Never stretch before a run, but always stretch afterwards.
  • Pick the right running shoes (or adapt to running barefoot).
  • Run on the right surfaces, such as grass and dirt trails.
  • Take ample recovery—especially after a hard training session.
  • Listen to your body and adjust your training approach accordingly.

Studies have shown that running does improve bone density and boosts health status. Just do it wisely and carefully, and you’ll reap the benefits with much less risk. Next time you hear someone making wrong assumptions on running, make sure to face him with the right facts.


 ~David Dack

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