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Running for the Health of It

If you’re headed out for a leisurely jog today, in recognition of Global Running Day [1], there’s good news about the health benefits of your exercise of choice.

In addition to being positive for overall health, leisurely running can be good for hips and knees. People who run recreationally have a lower chance of developing arthritis in their hips or knees, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy [2].

The research showed that men and women who ran for up to 15 years recreationally had only a 3.5 percent rate of developing arthritis in their hips or knees. Comparatively, 10.2 percent of people who did not run for exercise or remained sedentary developed hip or knee arthritis, the study found. Competitive runners had the highest rate of hip and knee arthritis at 13.3 percent.

Other studies [3] show that people who run a total of 51 minutes a week can achieve health benefits similar to those enjoyed by people who run for longer amounts of time and distances greater than six miles in a week.

“The biggest takeaway of these reports is that physical inactivity is the greatest threat to our health,” said Michael Swartzon, M.D. [4], a Baptist Health Medical Group [5] physician who specializes in primary care sports medicine at Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute [6]. “It’s not surprising that these studies prove that physical activity helps reduce risk factors for musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular disease and potentially fatal diseases.”

In fact, the latest published information confirms that people who ran a minimum of 51 minutes a week also decreased their body fat and waist circumference and lost weight. (Waist size and body fat are indicators of risk for developing cardiovascular disease.) Additionally, researchers discovered reductions in incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, high cholesterol, heart and lung conditions and certain types of cancer, such as kidney cancer, in these individuals.

The authors also reported a reduction in death and cardiovascular death of 30 percent and 45 percent, respectively. And they reported that running at this lower dose has the potential to add three to four years to your life.

Dr. Swartzon cautions that running may not be for everyone and urges people to speak with their doctors before starting any exercise regimen. But, he says that increasing physical activity contributes to one’s daily dose of exercise and significantly improves one’s health overall.

“These articles suggests that physicians should recommend mild-to-moderate exercise to patients who are able,” he said. “People don’t have to reach marathon-level training to get a great benefit. We suggest adding at least 30 minutes of physical activity to your daily routine,” he said. “There’s a cost to living a sedentary lifestyle that you can minimize by focusing on moving your body regularly.”

For information about free run clubs in the South Florida area, click here [7].