Friday, December 7, 2012

If running wasn't healthy would you still run?

Take your pick
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

My wife mentioned a conversation she'd recently had with our son. They were talking about the motivation for working out. A question they'd pondered was, "If running wasn't healthy, would people still do it?" It's an interesting thought, because most people will tell you that they run for enjoyment. In my opinion, it's much more likely that most people run for the health benefit. Occasionally they'll enjoy  the experience.

Would I run if the benefits weren't clear? That depends on a lot of things. In this scenario, is running harmful or is it health-neutral? If we suddenly learned that running does not contribute to health, I know I'd mothball the treadmill in a second. But, unless it caused harm, I'd probably still run trails. The point is moot, because I've realized big health benefits from running 20 or so miles a week. While I sometimes dislike the work, I always feel great in the end.

There are people on the other end of the spectrum, those who run ultra-long distances or compete in Ironman competitions, who may actually do themselves more harm than good. I wonder if these people accept the risk and choose to run for hours because they love the experience. I suspect that many of these athletes view endurance sports with a distorted lens: if a little running is healthy, a lot of running must be even better. Unfortunately  anorexics tend to look at eating (or not eating) the same way.

I ran on the treadmill this morning and thought about the enjoyment vs. health question. I decided that the only reason I was running (while most people were still sleeping) was to fulfill the commitment I'd made to stay in shape. But this weekend I'll be viewing my running a little differently, with a planned trail run at Caleb Smith State Park. That's my definition of fun and it just happens to be a healthy thing to do.


  1. I agree with feeling good after the run - so even if it had no benefits other than that, I probably would still do it.

  2. That's the thing - absent everything else, a great benefit of running is the peace of mind that comes after the run.

  3. Unless it were deemed bad for me, I'd still run. There is a liberating, fresh feel at the end of any run. I don't think I could tolerate not getting that feeling on a regular basis.


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