Walking Guide

3 Strikes Against Running: Is it Time to Hang up Your Sneakers?

Running is one of those activities that people either love or hate (and sometimes both at the same time). If you're out there pounding the pavement, you may field quite a few questions about why you voluntarily undergo such torture. And if you're not a runner, you may have some serious doubts about the sanity of your running friends.
 
Either way, the sport tends to get a bad rap. To set the record straight, we talked to a couple of running experts to get their take on the most common criticisms, and to find out whether they're legit or full of hot air.
 
Strike #1: It's bad for the joints.
 
This is arguably one of the biggest beefs non-runners have against running. Over the years, I've politely heeded plenty of warnings about the sad state my knees will be in if I keep it up. It seems like a logical argument—after all, running is a high-impact activity, often performed on hard surfaces—but there's no hard-and-fast proof that it will have a negative effect on the body.
 
Kyle Kranz, a running coach based in South Dakota, points out that numerous studies suggest higher-impact activities actually strengthen the joints and bones more than lower-impact activities, like cycling or swimming. In one 2015 study in the American Journal of Health Promotion, women who performed a daily hopping exercise for four months actually increased their hipbone density, while those who didn't hop lost some density. And a Berkeley study disproved the myth that excess running contributes to osteoarthritis and hip replacements.
 
"Simply stated, running works the bones and joints better, thus strengthening them in the same way that lifting weights works the muscles," says Kranz. "Over time, they adapt to become stronger than they were before."
 
Madeline Hanley, a competitive runner based in New York City, says proper form is the secret to preventing joint damage. "If you're pounding your whole foot into the ground, then yes, running is going to be very hard on your joints," she says.
 
To prevent this, Hanley recommends trying impact force reactional drills. "The key is to hop on one foot, while practicing bounding your opposite foot on the ground, trying to do this as gently but quickly as possible," she says. "Be like a boxer with your feet: To get more speed and be less fatigued when punching, boxers think about retracting their punches as soon as they punch. Think about your feet they same way: Bounce up as soon as they touch the ground." It may look a lot like river dancing, but this technique could help increase your cadence and reduce joint stress.
 
Strike #2: Running causes muscle loss.
 
There's a school of thought that running is more slimming than strengthening, and over time will "burn" away muscle definition. But as long as you're complementing your running with strength training and getting plenty of protein in your diet, you're unlikely to see any noticeable muscle shrinkage. And as a side perk, you may also find that your weight work increases the quality of your running.
 
To disprove this one, Kyle lets these pictures of his quads and calves do the talking.


 

Time to do some work! #fargohalfmarathon #fargomarathon #runchat #skorarunning #skoraTEMPO

A photo posted by SKORA Running (@skorarunning) on


"Unless a person is doing a great deal of running and has a significant caloric deficit, it's unlikely they'd experience much, if any, muscle loss from taking up a running routine," Kyle says.
Strike #3: Too much running is bad for you.
 
Kranz admits that there's a kernel of truth in this one. "Yes, there is definitely such thing as too much running," he says. "Just ask retired elite Ryan Hall, who partially blames his extremely high-mileage teenage years for his recent health issues." That said, Kranz maintains that researchers aren't exactly sure where that threshold lies, and that most people would find it difficult to run so much as to experience negative health effects.
 
One study suggested that the health benefits of running tend to drop off around the 20-mile-per-week range. However, those who logged between five to 19 miles per week had a 25 percent lower risk of death.
 
When it comes to finding that "sweet spot" of running distance, competitive ultramarathoner (and founder of running apparel brand OnlyAtoms) Beth Weinstein stresses the importance of listening to your body. "Do whatever feels good for you, and don't overdo anything," she recommends. "Like all things in life, it's all about balance. Running is about challenging your mind and body, but not about torturing yourself or always being miserable."
 
Weighing the Risks and Benefits
 
As with any physical activity, running comes with a mix of pros and cons. "Ultimately, the decision to run is one that each person must make for themselves," Kranz says. "There are certainly more dangerous or costly activities to pursue."
 
For Kranz, running has allowed him to work toward goals, connect with like-minded people, explore mountains and cities, and—most importantly—feel good about himself after his history as an obese, depressed high-schooler. "If you enjoy running and do it wisely (as with any activity), and it makes you feel good, then the benefits almost always outweigh the risks."
 
Hanley agrees that the benefits of running far outweigh the risks: "Running is more than just exercise for me—it's a social thing. It's gotten me through countless exam weeks, breakups and bad days, and always gives me a fresh perspective." That said, Hanley has sustained injuries and didn't always listen to her body at first, but now she knows when to run and when to rest.
 
The best part about running, according to Hanley, is that just about anyone can run. "You don't need tons of expensive gear, or years of experience and technique—you just need a pair of running shoes. The rest is between you and the road."
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Member Comments

Very important to know. Report
Runners run because they love it. I get it, it’s not my exercise of choice...by choice. It’s one form of amazing cardio, it’s not the ONLY form which is something some runners fail to realize. Recently I’ve noticed people out running with such incredibly bad form that it has to be negatively impacting them. Wise people listen to their body and know when it might be time to try/add something a little joint friendlier. Strength comes from knowing and listening to what our bodies say about the demands we make on it. This article is an excellent resource...thank you. Report
Thank you Report
I have really never enjoyed running but I walk 5 miles a day. Report
CACUJIN
I run for the enjoyment. I do not run for exercise.
My opinion, those leg photos look terrible. I would never want my legs to look that distorted.
Report
Great info! Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
Great information! Report
BONDMANUS2002
Absolutely great Report
I never enjoyed running and found myself at basic training,having to run 1 1/2 mile to graduate. I would take a lap at a time and was able to go above and exceed the time allowed. Fast forward and I found myself running 4 miles just because I could and found out it's the quickest way for me to lose unwanted pounds. It's been a while now and I've been entertaining the thought again. Report
I do not "run" for exercise. I do "run" for fitness. In PE Class we were taught fitness is being able to do everything you need to do, regardless of age or circumstances. Never know when you may need to run--so I include some running in my fitness plan. Report
221789
I did a lot of running when I was in my 20's. I injured my knees and the sports doctor told me not to run on cement sidewalkd but to rin on asphalt or dirt instead. The pounds per foot as you strike the sidewalk is greater. I quit running afterI graduated college, started a career and began a family, just bo time abd I got lazy and overweight. Fast forward to being in my 60' where I realized I needed to improve my health. I walk every day as fast as I can averaging 4 mph for 2 miles. I just not up to running any more. Report
Thanks! Report
Back in my 30s I ran a lot. 10ks about one a month or so and 25-30 miles per week average. No in my 60s I have osteoarthritis in both knees. I have high arches and don't naturally pronate so my knees took most of the cushioning but I have no regrets. My resting pulse in is the 50s and I use the Elliptical trainer for cardio and work out with heavy weights. My weight yo yo-ed up and down the last 40 or so years and I topped out at 300. Now after a year of a supervised diet by my Chiropractor/nutr
itionist I have lost 100 pounds and do heavy weights to gain back lost muscle mass from 30 years of getting older. Report
Not sure photos of one person’s leg muscles is conclusive proof!

Ultimately, the best form of exercise is one that you enjoy enough to do and that you do safely. I used to enjoy running a lot -sadly, it got too scary after a man tried to force a woman running in our village into his van. Sigh. If only the concerns listed were the only ones to contend with! Report
I started running regularly about a year and a half ago. I used couch to 5K. I am not fast. My mile time is solidly in the time range for women my age. I am 61. Yes I STARTED running at 59. Using good sense and listening to my body, I remain injury free. And my joints feel better than before I ran. Report
Walking Guide

About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.