Athletic activity is a great way to practice self care. Dedicated exercise time can be even more valuable when you're a parent because every minute of your day is dominated by to-do items, and working out is a great way to clear your brain. For some people, their preferred form of exercise is running. But how safe is it? If logging in a few miles is a major part of your regular routine, then the question of how running affects your body later in life might be a question that's on your mind.
From wearing on your joints to keeping your cardiovascular system in check, there are quite a few varying ways running can affect your body in the long term. As is the case with most things that involve physical activity, there's always a risk of injury or wear-and-tear to keep in mind. Though the lifestyle may come with its fair share of bumps and bruises, running can positively affect your mental health, too, from alleviating anxiety to improving your memory, reported Competitor Running. Still, running has its pros in cons when it comes to the various ways it affects the human body.
It's important to note that every body is different. Even if you're an identical twin, you're still unique — specifically in regards to the way your body handles movement. "There is a genetic component to whether or not you will have joint degeneration: I have seen a 70-year-old man who continually ran for exercise throughout his entire life with no issues," Dr. Karena Wu, a physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy, tells Romper. "On the flip side, I have treated 30-something-year-olds who have major pain, joint issues, and dysfunction from running."
But what's the happy medium that will keep your body and morale in good stride for years to come? "The best chance of not having it affect you down the road is a well-rounded exercise program that unloads the joints and keeps the muscles stable around those joints," Wu recommends. Maybe your mom knew what she was talking about when she said everything is good in moderation.
If you are considering taking up a runner's lifestyle, or have been doing regular laps around the track for years, here are the long-term effects running can have on your body that are helpful to keep in mind.
1. It Impacts Your Knees
"Runner's knee — also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome — is one of the common afflictions that many runners suffer from later in life," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, tells Romper via email. "This problem manifests in pain surrounding the kneecap which is generally triggered by activities that bend the knees, such as squatting or sitting for extended periods of time." The area under your kneecap basically acts like a buffer and helps to absorb and redistribute the shock of impact from pounding the pavement.
2. It's Heart-Happy
Before you hang up your sneakers just yet, there is some good news to balance out the not-so-great news. "Running regularly and consistently as part of daily exercise routine can enhance the functioning of the heart, thus increasing its efficiency." Dr. Mashfika N. Alam, a family physician, tells Romper. "In the long run, this can prevent heart diseases like heart failure and ischaemic heart disease." Again, keep an open line of communication with your doctor about your activities and any concerns you might have.
3. It Beats Up Your Butt
If my friends' Instagram hashtags are any indication, the status of their derriere is a major part of their runner's lifestyle. But your curves might not be thanking you later. "Running can be a literal pain in the ass later in life with gluteus medius tendinosis — also known as 'dead butt syndrome,'" Backe says. "An inflammation of the tendons in the glutes is experienced by many runners as they get older [and] pain can shoot all the way down the leg."
Thankfully, there are ways to cope with and even alleviate the discomfort associated with this kind of inflammation. "Typical pain reducers — such as ice or ibuprofen — can reduce the pain of 'dead butt syndrome,' but the most effective treatment is rest," Backe tells Romper. "This problem can be recurring later in life, so make sure to give your body a break from running when it flares up." As always, listen to your body so you'll be tuned in to any potential pain factors.
4. It Affects Your Sinuses
You might think that, just because you're an adult, your body has done the majority of its growing and changing. But, as it turns out, it is possible to acclimate your sinuses. "Allergies can be kept at bay and studies have shown that people with allergic rhino-sinusitis can often benefit from running as it clears up sinus congestion and also prevents it," Alam says. The results may vary, but it's worth talking to your physician about if you have trouble with environmental allergens.
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