According to a recent survey by Sports England, 65% of people have been using exercise to help manage their mental health during this unprecedented year – with as many as 22% of adults running on a weekly basis during the previous lockdown. With the imminent closure of gyms and new regulations coming into force this week, many people will be looking for ways to keep fit and care for their mental health.
Running is a popular pastime for those wanting to stay active whilst getting outside in the fresh air. During exercise the body releases mood-boosting hormones called ‘endorphins’ that help to relieve stress, increase self-esteem and boost energy, which can enhance our wellbeing physically and mentally.
However, many of those inspired to take up running may be hesitant due to concerns regarding the impact on their joints, specifically knees. A recent Joint Health of the Nation report revealed that 17 million people in the UK suffer from a joint and musculoskeletal condition, from aches and pains to debilitating arthritis.
Discussing the impact of running on joints, Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Rod Hughes comments;
“Running regularly is a great way to keep muscles strong and helps to maintain a stable weight. Any worries that the joints might wear out quicker with exercise is untrue as stronger muscles can protect adjacent joints.
“It is important to stretch before you exercise though, particularly if you are unaccustomed to exercise, unfit or overweight. This is because exercise, especially running, can cause a temporary stress to both the joints and soft tissues causing pain in the ligaments of the knees and across the tissues of the hip and pelvis. These are often relieved if you stretch well after you exercise and train in appropriate footwear.”
Equip yourself with the confidence to start running with this checklist, designed with your joints in mind.
Are your joints ready?
1. Best foot forward: Invest in properly fitted, well cushioned running shoes to help increase stability for joints. With a multitude of styles to choose from, ensure you do your research and choose a pair suited to your foot shape, arch type and strike pattern.
2. Start as you mean to go on: A thorough and proper warm up targeting all the major joints is important. Dynamic stretches and an active warm up (rather than simply stretching cold muscles) help blood flow to the muscles supporting the joints and aids synovial fluid flow, which in turn helps to reduce friction. A good warm up should also help you focus.
3.Mix it up: Try to avoid only running on unforgiving surfaces such as concrete and tarmac; mix it up and schedule some regular routes on softer ground though the park or a local nature reserve.
4. Natural power: Use a clinically-backed joint care supplement to avoid niggling joint pains putting you off your stride. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that GOPO® – an active compound derived from rose-hips with anti-inflammatory properties – may have long term beneficial effects on joint pain and mobility in healthy, physically active individuals. The study suggested GOPO® may help to improve joint function & potentially prevent the degeneration of cartilage.
5.Take it easy: If new to running, start gradually and listen to your body to avoid over doing it and the risk of injury. Remember the importance of rest days in helping your body recover.
6.Pay attention: Don’t ignore injuries and hope they will simply disappear; this may cause permanent issues long term. Seek professional help for injuries to give your body the best care possible. It may also be beneficial to visit your doctor for a once over before you begin training to ensure you’re fully fit.