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The beneficial effects of running on the spine

April 12, 2018

Running is good for the heart but also for the muscular-osteoarticular system. Good news are in for those who have avoided practicing this healthy sport for fear of damaging their skeleton. The most recent research (the latest of which appeared on Nature) has shown that the spine benefits more from regular running than from sedentary life. A normal jogging session, if not practiced too frequently or intensely, is in fact a healthy panacea for the spine. We talk about this topic with Dr. Piero Volpi, head of the unit of knee orthopedics and sport traumatology at Humanitas.


The vertebrae of runners are larger


The researchers examined a group of 79 adult men and women, two thirds of who had been running for at least five years. The rest of the subjects, on the other hand, rarely trained. All participants were made to wear fitness trackers to monitor their level of sporting activity. Using MRI, researchers measured the size and density of each person’s vertebral discs. What was discovered was that the runners’ discs were larger and more resistant than the discs of people who did not practice running. This contradicts the argument that running would increase disc deterioration. The greatest impact on the spine would be from smoking, obesity, age and family history with skeletal disorders.

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The false myth of back pain


Deterioration of spinal discs can contribute to the pain caused by what is commonly called “back pain”, but this type of discomfort is more complex and usually results from a variety of factors. Statistics show that runners are generally healthier: those who practice sports, including running, are less likely to develop this type of chronic pain. Running also has many advantages: it reduces stress, keeps your heart healthy and helps control weight.


The importance of adequate preparation


While it is essential to avoid a sedentary life, we must not succumb to the temptation to practice a sporting activity such as running without proper preparation. When you decide to start running it is advisable to start by walking fast and adequately warm your muscles. Only after a period of training we may be ready to increase the pace.

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