You don’t have to be a marathon runner to appreciate the health benefits of running. Even non-runners can benefit from this simple sport. Running is a great exercise because it can improve your heart health, reduce your risk of high blood pressure and improve your lipid profile.
If you’re a runner, we’re guessing you’ve heard all the discouraging myths about running. But just remember: as long as you are able to lace up your running shoes, it’s actually a healthy physical activity! Running might not be perfect, but it sure beats sitting on the couch doing nothing.
Not only is this simple sport good for your body, but it can improve your mental health and mood, decrease depression and anxiety, as well as improve and preserve cognitive functioning. While there are many benefits to lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement, myths about running still persist.
Below are seven common running myths that we want to dispel for you now.
Running Myth #1: Running is bad for your knees.
One of the most common running myths is that running can be bad for your knees. In fact, exercise is actually good for your knees as long as you don’t overdo it.
While you may have heard that running is bad for your knees, a study by Dr. Loose at the University of Bern in Switzerland has shown that runners have minimal knee problems and minimal wear and tear to their joints. Even if you run on a regular basis, there’s no proof that it will damage your joints or cause other knee-related injuries.
Running Myth #2: Stretch before you run.
Another common misconception is that you need to stretch before you run because doing so will prevent injuries. While there is some evidence to suggest this, it’s not true for all runners, either.
There have been many studies on the health benefits of stretching before running. In fact, research shows that prior to running, over 70% of participants experience lower back pain than they did without stretching.
Some people also believe that it will cause you to lose your range of motion and make it harder for your muscles to do their job. Honestly, this has never been scientifically proven.
Dynamic stretching is actually a more beneficial warm-up exercise than static stretching. Touching your toes with your fingertips while standing is the classic static stretch. Sure, it may help you feel loose and limber, but your muscles will be less elastic and be more susceptible to an injury. Dynamic stretching better prepares your body than static stretching.
The best dynamic stretch for a runner is a knee-to-chest exercise. While standing, lift your knee toward your chest then bring your foot toward the ground. Hug your shin as you bring your knee up so your knee cap rests against your chest. Alternate each leg and do this ten times. This dynamic stretch resembles your running stride and warms up the muscles you will be using.
Running Myth #3: Running every day to improve.
Another common myth about running is that you need to run every day to improve. While there are many health benefits from running on a regular basis, you don’t have to run every day. In fact, if you run too much and your body isn’t yet ready for it, it can lead to injuries, overuse injuries, and even repetitive stress injuries.
Running Myth #4: Cool down after running.
A fourth common misconception is that you need to cool down after a run. While it is true that a cool down can help to prevent injuries, it’s also important to know that cooling down doesn’t reduce the amount of post-exercise fatigue you feel. In fact, there’s little evidence to suggest that cooling down does much of anything. And, this is especially true for runners who are already accustomed to running.
Running Myth #5: You need to run a certain amount of time per day.
Here’s another popular one you probably heard—you need to exercise for a certain amount of time. In actuality, the number of minutes that you put into running each day isn’t what’s important. Instead, it’s the number of joules (a measurement from physics) and kilocalories that you burn. So, whether you run for 10 or 20 minutes per day, as long as you burn the same amount of calories, then it’s still considered an even workout.
However, if your focus is to improve your overall health, remember to key in on 150 minutes of activity per week. This means that if you incorporate running into your overall fitness program, you can run 20 minutes a day, three days a week, as long as you’re getting another 90 minutes of exercise the rest of the week.
Running Myth #6: Runners can eat whatever they want.
This is a big misconception. Runners can eat whatever they want is something you may have heard. In truth, as long as you enjoy what you’re putting into your body, there’s nothing wrong with going for those cookies or brownies.
You can’t eat what you want just because you’re running and burning more calories. You still need a well-balanced diet and you need to watch your caloric intake. A poor nutritional diet can compromise your immune system and trigger illness and infection. Eat more foods high in vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, selenium, iron, and folic acid such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
However, it’s important to know that just because running is a healthy physical activity doesn’t mean that you can overdo it and eat whatever you want.
Running Myth #7: Running too much makes you thin.
The final misconception about running is that if you run, it will make you thin—which, of course, is not true. In actuality, just because running is good for your health doesn’t mean that it will make you lean.
In fact, there have been many studies in the past that suggest the opposite is true. These studies suggest that running can actually increase your weight and waist circumference.
Running is a great weight loss tool but it is not necessary to run miles and miles for it to be effective. Taking just 10 minutes a day to run, or even five, is all that is needed.
Work with your doctor
While running is great exercise, before buying some new running shoes, we highly recommend speaking with your primary care physician before you start running. When it comes to your fitness, it’s important that you’re healthy for a long time before starting to run. If you don’t think that running is the right activity for you, then consider other forms of exercise such as swimming or biking.