Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jogging – hobby you can start at retirement

Deciding to take up jogging, the middle-aged man was astounded by the wide selection of jogging shoes available at the local sports shoe store. While trying on a basic pair of jogging shoe, he noticed a minor feature and asked the clerk about it. “What’s this little pocket thing here on the side for?” “Oh, that’s to carry spare change so you can call your wife to come pick you up when you’ve jogged too far.”

Findings on the health effects of jogging have varied in different studies over the years, with a long-running debate that began in the 1970s over whether it's good for you or not.

Jogging Health Benefits

The benefits of vigorous exercise are well described. The American College of Sports Medicine Position Statement on Exercise is a document chock-full of studies proving that vigorous exercise yields plenty of health benefits. One of the major points of the position statement is that there is a dose response to exercise; that is, the more you do, or the harder you do it, the more benefit you accrue. But this point is not to discount moderate exercise. You get plenty of benefit from moderate exercise; it's just that vigorous exercise seems to accrue even more benefit. The ACSM report makes it clear that "many significant health benefits are achieved by going from a sedentary state to a minimal level of physical activity; [but] programs involving higher intensities and/or greater frequency/durations provide additional benefits. For example, it was shown in one study that individuals who ran more than 50 miles per week had significantly greater increases in HDL cholesterol (the good fat) and significantly greater decreases in body fat, triglyceride levels, and the risk of coronary heart disease than individuals who ran less than 10 miles per week. In addition, the long-distance runners had a nearly 50% reduction in high blood pressure and more than a 50% reduction in the use of medications to lower blood pressure and plasma cholesterol levels."

Cardiorespiratory fitness (aerobic fitness or "cardio") is the ability of your heart to pump stronger and more efficiently and your muscles to use oxygen more efficiently. As you get more aerobically fit, your heart will pump more blood and oxygen with each beat (this is called "stroke volume") and your muscles will extract (or consume) more oxygen. For instance, if you have 100 oxygen molecules floating around in your bloodstream, a conditioned muscle might consume 75 molecules, whereas a deconditioned muscle might only consume 30, or even fewer than that. In fact, elite distance runners can be as much as three times more efficient at consuming oxygen than sedentary individuals. Running improves your aerobic fitness by increasing the activity of enzymes and hormones that stimulate the muscles and the heart to work more efficiently.

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Recent Studies

A new as of 2012, recent study confirms the viewpoint that jogging is good for the health and helps to extend your life. Regular jogging increases life expectancy 6.2 years for men and 5.6 years for women, according to data from the ongoing Copenhagen City Heart study.

Researcher Peter Schnohr reported that between one and two-and-a-half hours of jogging per week at a “slow or average” pace deliver optimum benefits for longevity. Analysis exploring the amounts of exercise undertaken by joggers in the study has revealed a U-shaped curve for the relationship between the time spent exercising and mortality. The investigators found that between one hour and two and a half hours a week, undertaken over two to three sessions, delivered the optimum benefits, especially when performed at a slow or average pace. "The relationship appears much like alcohol intakes. Mortality is lower in people reporting moderate jogging, than in non-joggers or those undertaking extreme levels of exercise," said Schnohr.

Professor Jim Fries, an expert in healthy ageing, and his colleagues at Stanford's school of medicine followed 538 runners and 423 couch potatoes for 17 years. They found that only 5 per cent of the joggers experienced osteoarthritic pain during that time, compared with 20 per cent of the sedentary group. "Traditionally arthritis was thought to be a disease of wear and tear," Fries said. "But we now know that running without an existing injury or illness helps you to stay fit for longer, and means that you are four times more likely to avoid disability."

Dr. Kisou Kubota of Nihon Fukushi University in Handa, Japan showed that individuals consistently scored higher on intellectual tests after embarking on a running program.

"These improvements, however, went down when the joggers stopped their training, which suggests that ongoing exercise is required to maintain the benefit," he concluded.

Dr Kabata's joggers had to run for 30 minutes, two to three times a week for at least 12 weeks. Each of the runners also took a series of complex computer-based tests, to compare memory skills before and after the three-month jogging program. After 12 weeks of jogging, scores on all of the tests "significantly increased" in the runners, as did their reaction times in completing the tests. How exercise might strengthen mental sharpness is unclear, but previous research suggests that maintaining a healthy flow of blood and oxygen protects the brain. The Japanese researchers note that oxygen intake rose along with joggers' test scores.

Kubota said the research may someday help doctors "find a way to use exercise and running to help aged people and those with Alzheimer's disease" improve their cognitive function.

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Learning to run

If you think you know how to run, you may be wrong. If you decided to explore jogging as your retirement hobby, you may need to learn how to run, as you did with everything else in your life.

By the age of 50 most people accumulate lots of bad habits and fears, which they have never been aware of. The first steps will take a lot from you, and you'll need to open your mind, feelings, adjust your muscles' work and neuromuscular patterns for these changes in order to start building a new you.

The first hurdle is your mind. Are you really ready to sacrifice and keep going, when the pleasure is not even on the horizon? Do you believe that you are capable of doing what needs to be done? So, are you mentally ready for run?

The second obstacle is your neuromuscular coordination. Did you notice that you can allow yourself a very limited use of your body? Any deviations from your routine, your well established life habits of movement are very difficult. You get up from your bed, walk around the house and get to your car. That's about it. In a car back maneuver you have a problem to turn your head or neck, or your torso around its own axis. Changing the lines is also a problem for the same reason as well. Yielding to a lady at the door confuses your movements and you prefer not to do it at all. In other words, your space/time perception is far away from your needs when they extend beyond your routine life. Running is even further away from your expectations.

On the surface, the running technique requires only elementary coordination, but it is difficult because you never learnt it. That's why, for example, a simple requirement to keep your body weight on the ball of the foot is the problem. You never did this before consciously, so your muscles are not familiar with this request, particularly when you run fast or long. But to keep your body weight there is the crucial point of the whole running technique, because you are falling from this point forward by using gravitational pull, the most powerful force available in our movement.

The next thing you need to do is to change support from one foot to the other, while you are falling. Here the next challenge arises, how to pull your foot from the ground while you are falling. Your body just doesn't have any idea about this action, which requires very unusual coordination. In younger years people may have learnt this accidentally, if they trained in some fields where running was part, but by the age of 50 even these people usually lose it.

When you get the idea about the fall and pull as real actions, then your next step would be to work on your specific and nonspecific strength level. In both fall and pull actions you are working with gravity and gravity doesn't really care how old you are, what is your current position, and how much money you have on your account. Gravity asks you to deal with your weight (that's how gravity manifests itself) and at this moment of truth your muscles should be ready to respond in the best way possible, in each step you produce in your running journey: in the morning, at noontime, in the evening, uphill/downhill, under the rain, against the wind, in a warm or cold weather the rules are still the same. You have to deal with them.

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Running outdoors vs. a treadmill?

You'll get equally fit running on a treadmill or outdoors. In fact, many distance-running athletes use the treadmill to save their legs from the pounding of roadwork. But there is a slight difference in energy expenditure (calories burned) between the two; outdoor running burns slightly more calories than treadmill running at the same speed due to lack of air resistance on the treadmill. Researchers studying this phenomenon found that setting the treadmill at 1% elevation equals things out. So, set the treadmill at 1% so that treadmill walking or running mimics outdoor exercise.

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Running injuries?

A new study called a meta-analysis (a study that reviews many studies on one subject) evaluated studies of running injuries and published the following interesting results:
  1. The overall incidence of lower-extremity injuries varied from 19.4% to 79.3%, thus the range is wide, which implies that it is difficult to predict who will get injured.

  2. The most predominant site of injury was the knee.

  3. Higher age was reported as a significant risk factor to incur running injuries in four high-quality studies, but two other high-quality studies reported that higher age was a significant protective factor, thus the evidence is conflicting and so it's not clear if running when you are older will cause or protect you from injury.

  4. Increasing distance during the week does not appear to be a risk factor for injury, and in fact, in some studies, it was shown to be protective against injury. However, this may be because only strong runners increase their mileage and they may be less prone to injury. More research needs to be done before conclusions can be drawn about increasing mileage and the risk of injury.

  5. Running more than 40 miles per week was a risk factor for both male and female runners to incur lower-extremity running injuries, although the risk was higher for males, perhaps because they tend to weigh more than women.

  6. There appears to be no association between the use of a warm-up and lower-extremity injuries. This means that stretching beforehand may not reduce your risk of injury. This is not a surprise, as there is virtually no research to show that stretching prevents any type of injury.

  7. A history of previous injuries is a risk factor for running injuries. Runners with previous injuries should pay extra attention to signs of injuries, avoid overtraining (like exceeding 40 miles per week), and take time to fully recover from their injuries.


  1. Not all the specialists recommend jogging physical exercises for senior citizens. They claim jogging and running are not the ideal form of exercise for most seniors unless they have been doing this all their lives. The shock of the pavement, the pounding and the additional stress may be too hard for old bones and joints. Walking in convenient pace may be a good alternative for you. Jogging does offer a greater cardiovascular workout in a shorter period of time but is also associated with greater impact on the joints and strain on the muscles when compared to walking. This needs to be taken into consideration if a senior has not been jogging earlier in life on a regular basis, lacks the cardiopulmonary (heart, blood vessels, airways, lungs) functioning for this level of activity or has musculoskeletal conditions which may be aggravated by jogging.
  2. If you had previous injuries, be extremely careful. As we are getting older, recovery from such physical harm may be very long and complicated.
  3. Be reasonable – start slow, increase your load gradually.
  4. Bad air can make strenuous outdoor exercise harmful. If you prefer nature over the treadmill, be sure not to run near highway or chemical plant. Your lungs need fresh air, so if there is no hope getting it, better visit fitness club.
  5. Consider walking or jogging with a partner or in groups, in well lit and safe areas with appropriate footwear.
  6. Dress appropriately. Although you may feel hot after a workout, the body can quickly lose vital body heat particularly in colder climates.
  7. Carry some form of communication if jogging through unfamiliar territory. A few coins to use in a telephone booth and some cash to pay for a taxi should the need arise is also recommended.
  8. Stop jogging immediately and rest if there is any breathlessness, chest pain, dizziness or blurred vision. Pay attention to how your body feels before and after a jog. Aches and pains are not uncommon after jogging. However sharp pain that lasts longer than 20-30 minutes after a run could be abnormal. It's important to know your own body so you can be alert to a pull or pain that could be an indication of a more serious injury.
  9. Ensure that you take your medication on time or carry it with you if your exercise routine interferes with the timing of your drug regimen.
  10. Never exercise on an empty stomach but also do not undertake strenuous activities like jogging just after a meal.
  11. Be aware of your limitations – this can refer to your mobility, eyesight, hearing and memory.
  12. Always consult with a doctor before starting any exercise program. Discuss it with your regular family doctor or geriatrician who has a good knowledge of your medical history.

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