Ask any marathon junkie, and chances are, he or she will extol the benefits of running. And why not, when running is easily one of the most affordable, fuss-free, and popular ways to get in shape?

But what they don’t tell you is how running can be physically more damaging than other sports like swimming or cycling. Dr Pauline Leong, Head at the Department of Physiotherapy at Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), a member of the SingHealth​ group, warns that by the time joggers realise that excessive running is doing more harm than good to their bodies, they would have sustained injuries that require costly and painful treatments.

The incidence of running related injury is between 19-85 per cent and this rate has not decreased appreciably in the last 30 years.

When running injuries worsen, so will recovery time​​

“Often, these patients think the pain – especially to their j​​oints – is part of the rigour of the sport,” says Pauline. “What they don’t realise is that as the injury worsens, so do their cha​nces of recovery through simple rehabilitation.”

Some joggers may even take on a new challenge like aiming to complete a full marathon without considering the amount of time needed to train properly. Studies have shown that behaviours such as time urgency, ambitiousness, training impulse and competitiveness has been associated with an increased risk in injury. Additionally, people with unresolved previous injuries (unrelated to running) sustained more injuries.

Injuries are just the tip of the iceberg. There have been well-publicised cases of otherwise healthy joggers having a sudden heart attack while pounding the pavement. Some have even resulted in death.

Still, the benefits of running far outweigh its health hazards. For Pauline, it’s about knowing the health risks that are associated with running, and how to mitigate them. “More importantly, it’s about knowing yourself and being realistic about your run targets,” she adds.

See next page for tips on preventing r​unning hazards: joint problems and muscular and bone injuries.​​​

Ref: P16