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Too much running... bad for you???? What's your opinion... (Read 1103 times)

    I'm currently sidelined (a few weeks now) with a muscle tear. Went to a Sports Medicine Doctor (D.O.) yesterday to see why my leg hurts so darn bad, and he asked how much I run. I said 25-30 miles a week. He immediately said. "That's just too much." Once we talked he said he gets a lot of late 40's, early 50's people in his office complaining of "arthritis". But that, in fact, they don't have arthritis they've just worn their joints out with too much running. That our joints weren't meant to take such a pounding year after year, and I'd be better off cutting my mileage in half but doing greater intensity (hills, faster), and combinbing my running with other non-impact workouts (elliptical, swimming, cycling.) I'm a true runner at heart-- nothing else compares to it, and I can't wait until my leg feels better so I can just get back out there, run like the wind, blow all the crap in life out of my head. But now I wonder, is he right? Ultimately, in terms of longevity of exercising, is it stupid to just run and run? Or is he a quack? Interested in knowing your thoughts, fellow runners...
      Quack. I agree that there is such a thing as too much running. Too much of anything can be bad. But too much will be a different value for everyone and 25-30 mpw is not it. For most people.

      Runners run.

        Short answer: he's a quack. I hope Dr. Trent chimes in, because I'll bet he's got the research handy. Because there is PLENTY of research that demonstrates conclusively that your quacky friend is impressively clueless. I've read several long-term studies that found that after several decades of running, hard-core runners (averaging a hell of a lot more than 25 miles a week) generally had far better joints, skeletal structure, and cartilage than non-runners of the same age. He got it exactly backwards. Assuming you train smart, rest when appropriate, and don't run on injuries, your joints will be far better at age 90 then a guy who sat on his couch. Running doesn't hurt. It helps. He is right on one thing: adding in cross training, especially strength training, builds anatomical balance; from what I've read, the only risk to runners' joints is that they sometimes neglect all cross training and weaken the musculature around their joints as result. But assuming you have a balanced fitness program, your doctor couldn't be more wrong if he tried. If I get time later I'll try to find some of the research I've read. Modified to add: Okay, I did a quick Google search - and this is from a non-quack physician, from the very first site listed:
        The perception that running is bad for the joints or "harsh on the skeleton" is also not accurate. Impact sports have a beneficial effect on the bones by stimulating calcium uptake which strengths the bones. What makes running hard on the joints is when people run or walk primarily on hard surfaces, concrete or pavement, and with poor shoes.
        E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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        A Dance with Monkeys

          He's a quack Takes one to know one, and I'm a quack. So take it from me. He's a quack. There was a recent study that showed that people who run lifelong and put in a lot of miles get arthritis in their worn knees when they are 60-70. Of course, there were not many people in their 60s and 70s who were not runners because the nonrunners had all already died. The publications was widely criticized on this point. But poorly informed docs nonetheless took the article's conclusions to heart. "Too much running" is any total distance that you personally have not built up to. For me, 30 miles per week is not enough. For others out there, this is far too much. There is no single number that works for everybody. Also, our bodies are made for walking and running. They are not made for skiing, football playing, etc. All these other sports put you at risk for getting real injuries. Once injured, you can then exacerbate the injury while running. But running in and of itself is NOT dangerous and does NOT cause excess joint wear above and beyond the joint wear everybody gets from being alive. Of course, there is a lot of variability. Some people wear out much faster than others, regardless of how much they run. That is one of the things that makes the science difficult. And it is always reasonable to add in cross training. But to run well, you need to run a lot. Adding more intensity while cutting back miles may actually increase your risk of injury. Ask your doc to show you good scientific evidence in support of his claim. Or find another doc. His personal experience with people with worn joints that he attributes to running is NOT good science; it is opinion based on anecdote. At best.
            Your quack pissed me off enough that I couldn't resist a little quick research. Here are a couple of links for Dr. Quack to read. Note the lengthy citations to scholarly journals: http://www.tfn.net/HealthGazette/osteo.html http://www.jaoa.org/cgi/content/full/106/6/342 And some of the key quotes:
            Although the existing evidence on whether long-term long-distance running causes osteoarthritis is currently insufficient for researchers to draw unequivocal conclusions, the preponderance of data seems to indicate that moderate levels of running do not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people and that this activity might even have a protective effect. A history of injury—from overuse or acute trauma as a result of running, excessive running, intrinsic anatomical instability in the joints, or a high body mass index— can accelerate the onset of osteoarthritis and cause disability, however ... The risks of running as noted should be weighed against the tremendous benefits of this activity to the other body systems. Running has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease,28 diabetes mellitus,28 and depression.29 This kind of physical activity has also been shown to help with weight control, to improve bone density, and to decrease mortality.
            Dr. Walther reviewed 10 retrospective studies and three prospective studies. The conclusion was that "there is no evidence that running is associated with an increase risk for degenerative arthritis of the hip." In Dr. Canaghan's article the conclusion was that "there seems to be little risk associated with recreational running." "There was an increased risk of lower limb osteoarthritis in participants of repetitive high impact sports." Most of the literature seems to suggest that osteoarthritis is more related to age and heredity than it is to exercise.
            The main conclusion of the article was that normal joints in individuals of all ages appear to tolerate prolonged and vigorous exercise without adverse consequences or accelerated development of osteoarthritis. They also concluded that exercise may actually help prevent the development of osteoarthritis. A regular exercise program is also helpful in individuals that have developed osteoarthritis.
            Although there are not currently enough data to give clear recommendations to long-distance runners, it appears that long-distance running does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people who have no other counterindications for this kind of physical activity. Long-distance running might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration.
            The conclusion: your doctor is a frickin' moron.
            E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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            A Dance with Monkeys

              I couldn't resist a little quick research
              Good work! Hey, I have a grant coming up; would you mind swinging by and doing a lit review for me? Another discussion that is related: click


              You'll ruin your knees!

                It's been (quack) covered already (quack), but I disagree with Trent in asking the (quack) doc for scientific backup...don't waste your time (quack)...there are plenty of docs who don't share his (quack) position. If you have access to a running club or a community of runners in your area, I'll bet someone can point you to a runner-friendly doc. Good luck with the achy legs...Vitimin I is good for it, in moderation, of course. By the way, in case you were wondering, I think your doc is a quack. Lynn B

                ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)

                dillydoodles


                  I'm 54 years old and have only been running for 6 months. I have arthritis in my ankles (and wrists and hands). My family doc says just rest, elevate and ice after every run if my joints are hurting. He also said running may actually help with the arthritis – eventually – but at least running will NOT make it worse. Mind you, my family doctor is a runner, but I don't believe he is biased. One thing that has shown up on tests is that my bone density is higher after 6 months of running than it was when I was tested just a year ago! Running is definitely good for the bones. (At least mine anyway.) For the first three months I ran an average of 10-12 miles/week. I've been cautiously (slowly) increasing my weekly distance and am up to 16 miles/week. Most of my runs are done at an easy pace. I take my age into consideration when I read articles and training plans, and my main concern is to stay healthy and injury-free. There's not much written for people who start running in their 50's. I hope to eventually get up to 25-30 miles/week. If it takes me longer to get there than it does for most, I'm OK with that. I hope you recover quickly and can get back to running soon. It's too bad your doctor doesn't know more about running. My arthritis was much worse when I was just sitting on the couch. Take care, Arlene
                    Also, our bodies are made for walking and running. They are not made for skiing, football playing, etc. All these other sports put you at risk for getting real injuries.
                    Skiing or football playing are not a problem. Falling while skiing is a different story. Tongue
                      When people hear how much/ how far I run (really, not that much, 40-50 miles/ week during marathon training, 25-30 when I'm not training for a full), they often say "That can't be good on your body/ is not natural" and I ALWAYS want to respond, "it is, actually, but watching tv for 4 hours a day and eating donuts and not exercising most certainly is not good for your body/ is not natural." Shocked
                      2009: BQ?
                        Way back in the 80's, the first guy that ever told me running was bad for the knees was a bodybuilder friend who took steroids.... Yeah, I pretty much had the same reaction. I've been a runner & a fat bastard both. The latter's not so good for the knee's, the former certainly gets better as the pounds come off.

                        If ye like the nut, crack it.

                         

                          WOW! When I originally posted this message, I had no idea what responses I'd get. You guys are the best! Obviously, I totally agree with y'all, appreciate the research, and feel so much better with all the pro-running support. Why did I let one doc make me question my very (runners) identity? thanks! --K.C.
                            I know a lot of docs who dont even bother telling runners not to run - they never listen anyway, so why bother? They then tell me they are the most stubborn athletes out there. On second thought, maybe if I stopped running sooner this summer I could have prevented most of my IT Band problems. Wink
                              Good work! Hey, I have a grant coming up; would you mind swinging by and doing a lit review for me? Another discussion that is related:
                              Trent - I found that article fascinating in light of a recent experience. If you look at my log, you see a big old gap at the end of December. I ran 60+ miles on hills in 6 days, ran a 5-k in the sand ... and something happened. I actually thought my right ankle might be broken. After the race, I couldn't walk back to the car. Had to wait on a street corner to be picked up. Horrible, sharp pain. It took me 3 days to be able to walk. And then I was (I thought) very, very smart. I stayed off it almost completely, didn't even think about running, lots of ice, etc. There I was, 2 pairs of new shoes, tons of new running gear, new year starting ... and it still felt wierd. I thought I'd have to take the first few weeks of 2007 off. Completely frustrating. But on the morning of the first, I said "screw it" (not exactly, but this is a family show) ... and went and ran 12 miles. For the first 4 or 5, it felt wierd. Twinges, strange pains. And then ... magic. I've run 80 miles since, my first official 50 mile week (and I'll do it again this week), running more than ever, including some tempo runs ... and the pain is GONE. I mean completely gone. In fact, I was having some problems with stiff ankles before Christmas, and now THAT is completely gone. My legs feel wonderful. So it looks like, in this case at least, the researchers in that article were right .... taking absolute rest seems to have been the worst thing I could have done. Running again was the cure, not a problem. Fascinating stuff. Of course, the trick will be figuring out exactly when the right time is to run on that injury ... and when that might sideline you for a month ...
                              E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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                                What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?? So a lot of mileage is good then? Rather than getting you injured it makes you LESS injured? Hmm. Interesting. What about running every day with no days off? Is that okay? Would running every day for, say, 12 or more days in a row be advisable? Or is that just crazy talk? Big grin

                                Runners run.

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