“Happy New Year! Have you made New Year’s resolutions to be more active this year? Do you want to start running and don’t know where to begin? Running has many benefits to your overall health and well-being. First, participating in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercise like running, can boost mood, energy, and improve quality of sleep. Secondly, running at a moderate pace not only helps burn calories during exercise but also contributes to an “afterburn” effect, during which the body continues to burn calories for a period of time after the run is completed. Lastly, impactful exercise like running will help to prevent bone loss in the lower extremities, which can be a health concern for older adults.
While there are numerous benefits to exercise, inadequate shoe wear, training, and mechanics can increase your risk for injury. When beginning an exercise program it is important to start by selecting a pair of shoes that is made for your type of foot. Local running shoe stores are a great place to start when trying to determine if you need a shoe with more structure, cushion, or need a specific type of insert due to your foot posture. Additionally, experts in running recommend replacing your shoes every 300-500 miles. Don’t underestimate the value of a good running shoe in keeping you injury free!
The next step to beginning a running program is to ease into the exercise to allow your body to adapt to the new demands. If you are beginning exercise for the first time or after a long break, begin with walking and slowly increase your distance over time. Also, it is beneficial to begin performing strengthening exercises, especially for the core and hips, to help prevent injury caused by weakness or muscle imbalances. Once you have increased your endurance and overall fitness with walking and strength training, your body is now better prepared to begin running. Begin with interval walking and running and then gradually increase the run time and decrease the walk time over the course of several weeks. Once you can run continuously for 20-30 minutes, then it is appropriate to start increasing your distance and then pace. Online resources, such as Runner’s World, have articles and training programs that can help develop a program for you and your running goals. Set realistic goals for yourself so that you can achieve them without suffering a setback due to injury.
Improper running mechanics can lead to injuries in runners over time. Overuse injuries, which occur in both novice and elite runners, can become a nagging problem and often sideline a runner for a period of time. This is where a physical therapist can be of value to you. Physical therapists can evaluate your flexibility, strength, alignment, and movement patterns. A comprehensive evaluation by a physical therapist will help determine factors that may lead to inefficiencies in running form or abnormal mechanics, thus leading to injury. If you do suffer an injury, consider being evaluated by a physical therapist who can devise a program specific to your body and injury. Take caution with performing generic exercise routines found online because there are often other individual factors contributing to an injury. For further reading on injury prevention with running and specific types of running injuries, visit the American Physical Therapy Association’s website for patients at www.moveforwardpt.com.’