From running away from problems and running after what you want, to literally just running in a bid to shed weight—there’s nothing that running cannot solve.
In fact, running has been a much-loved sport for millions across the globe and India has caught up with the rest of the world in adding to those miles.
The bad news, however, is that running might not always work to your advantage. Sometimes, this form of cardiovascular exercise can actually backfire and not suit you.
Here are all the reasons why, as cited by Dr. Kruti Khemani, physiotherapist and founder, Continuum Sports Physiotherapy and Rehab Centre, Mumbai:
1. Your core might not be strong enough for it
According to Dr. Khemani, running is one exercise that poses a bigger demand on the central stability muscles and structures.
Running requires a very strong central portion of our bodies namely, deep abdominals, pelvic floor, gluteal and hip muscles. These are the exact muscles which get weak in a woman—especially when she is in pre or a post-natal stage.
Hence, if you want to reap the benefits of running without letting it damage your spine, you can start by working on your core muscles first, strengthen them with a proper workout routine focusing on this area, and include running in your routine after that.
2. Your bones might not support it
“Women’s joint cartilages have been proven to degenerate faster than that of men. This means that running can cause an early onset of arthritis in the weight-bearing joints of women who run,” Dr. Khemani points out.
Ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake when you undertake running as a form of exercise or even otherwise can help you a great deal. Starting slow and building your bone strength with the help of resistance training can help as well.
3. Pre-existing damage can be to blame for it
Dr Khemani explains that pre-existing issues such as pelvic floor weakness or urinary incontinence can cause running to backfire and vice-versa. The degree of damage depends on the structural damage to the pelvis and vaginal area during childbirth or after menopause.
4. The size of your pelvis has a role to play
Conventionally and biologically, most women have a bigger pelvic area and thus, wider hips and heavier thighs. This can add to the burden on their knees (patella-femoral issues), making the knees more prone to an injury/pain after running which subjects the knee to a lot of pressure.
5. Your ONLY focus is running
“Runners frequently neglect stretching exercises and flexibility as part of their training. Lack of flexibility causes soft-tissue injuries and adds extra load on the lower body joints,” Dr Khemani says.
“In fact, a majority of runners have muscle imbalances because they neglect upper body training and tend to opt for more running. Hence, they can become more susceptible to injuries and typically have limited upper body strength as well as postural imbalances,” she adds.
6. You over-train
If you’ve taken to running to lose the extra kilos quickly, you might just be pushing yourself too hard to get quick results.
“Pushing your body too much while running and doing it excessively can make you prone to getting injured while you’re at it. It can also lead to a heart attack,” Dr. Khemani warns.
Moreover, if you don’t take enough rest, your muscles won’t recover. The muscles which are already weak, fatigued, and damaged will be more prone to getting injured while you’re doing a high-intensity physical activity such as running.
If running still gives you more pain and less pleasure, here are a few alternatives to it suggested by Dr. Khemani:
i) The most effective replacement for running to gain the same or similar benefits is swimming. Swimming provides the same cardiovascular benefits as running does but minus the negative effects on the muscle and joint health due to its low-impact nature.
ii) You can hit the gym and include 20 minutes of cardio thrice a week along with 30 minutes of weight training. Doing so can improve muscle mass as well as bone density.
iii) A low impact form of cardio such as dancing works beautifully for women who enjoy this activity. Dancing has both physical and mental health benefits depending on the form of dancing. Moreover, it has very minimal injury risk.
iv) Those who find that running impacts their joints can certainly manage to gain the bare
minimum muscle strength to be able to do brisk walks at least 4 to 5 times a week. This again gives similar benefits though you might have to clock in more time and effort to gain the same level of advantages as that of running.
So, ladies, you need to first figure out if running is something that suits you.