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The debate about running that has been open for more than a century: is it beneficial or harmful to your health?

To this day we have (or should have) the need to exercise fully internalized as part of the care we give our body and our health . And it’s nothing new: since antiquity , moderate physical activity as one of the pillars to enjoy vitality and resistance to diseases.

But this relationship between health and sport, especially speaking of athletics and running, has lived its plus and minus throughout history.

A chapter of the book Sport and Exercise Science: Essays in the History of Sports Medicine picks up the debate that took place during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries about athletics, its medical value and the effects of training more or less.

The industrial revolution and the sedentary life

Exercise has always been one of the bases of hygienic life recommended by doctors. During the nineteenth century , after the industrial revolution, millions of people both in the United States and Europe migrated from rural areas to cities and this was a radical change in lifestyle .

From performing physical tasks outdoors, in many cases they went to a much more sedentary life doing jobs in factories and offices, there was less access to fresh food and pollution made a dent in the respiratory systems of the population.

From performing physical tasks in the open air, in many cases he went to a much more sedentary life doing jobs in factories and offices

So physicians recommended effusively to compensate these limitations of movement of the work environment with leisure activities related to physical exercise. Something that at first people did not seem very willing to do.

It was the athletics competitions after the First World War that made it fashionable to run as a popular leisure activity, something to which to dedicate free time.

From moderation to excess

But at that time the concern of some doctors became another: always emphasizing moderation as one of the pillars of that hygienic life, athletes could be anything but moderate . So at this time began a debate that lasted several decades between those who defended physical activity and sports for their health-promoting qualities, and those who opposed this athleticism current to consider it exaggerated, excessive and excessive.

The clash of opinions within the medical community was one of the most intense at the turn of the century and during the first decades of the twentieth century and among other things gave rise to the birth of sports medicine .

The most curious thing is that we can say that this debate is still open today , with running , heir of athletics, as the main protagonist. Nowadays, more and more people practice this sport at an amateur level thanks to the fact that it is simple, cheap and allows as many training formats as people practice it.

A debate that is still open

And yet, the medical community does not agree at all : nobody denies the health benefits of periodically performing moderate or intense physical exercise, but there are also risks associated with running that are also undeniable.

It is calculated, for example, that 79% of runners will suffer injuries at some point in their lives, a statistic that has remained more or less stable for decades. Running is especially hard for heels, ankles and knees , especially in people who run long distances.

In addition, the risk seems to be somewhat higher for women , who are injured more often. In the Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University they are analyzing what this data is due to, and believe that it could be because of the different shape of the legs and hips, as well as the fact that most women tread before with the heel when running.

Beyond injuries

Nine out of ten Spanish runners do not prepare well and three out of four have never undergone an effort test

But maybe the injuries are not the worst. In April of last year, the Spanish Society of Sports Medicine launched a report that was rather a warning: nine out of ten Spanish runners do not prepare well and three out of four have never been subjected to a stress test, vital to detect possible cardiovascular conditions that may endanger the life of the athlete in case of overexertion .

The report also noted that many runners do not warm up before or stretch after training, but that is not the worst. The most worrisome of the document was that 5% of athletes have suffered chest pain at some time, 6% palpitations and 10% syncope, and most have not consulted a doctor about it.

Train always with head

That is to say, that the same old debate is still open between the benefits of intense training , in this case in the race, that makes us increase our heart rate , in addition to the psychic benefits of seeing that we achieve and we are surpassing increasingly complicated goals and the recommendation of moderation and caution when training , especially if we suffer injuries or some added complication.

We always try to echo this debate, defending and explaining the advantages of running for your health but always recommending that you go to the doctor at the slightest sign that something is not working as it should, as well as doing all the previous medical tests , training in a structured way and following all phases of training to prevent possible injuries.

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