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EPISODE 26: Running Towards Recovery - How Running Supports Your Physical Therapy Journey

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

You may be asking: "Why does my physical therapist care if I run or not? I mean, aren't they just injury experts?" In reality, we don't care what exercise you choose to participate in, we just want you to move your body and take care of it! Exercise has a plethora of long term health benefits. As a physical therapist, I care about your overall health and well-being :)

All that being said, I would like to introduce you to running. Many people don't really know why running can be so good for the body, mind, and soul. Running is actually one of my favorite forms of exercise because of everything I will discuss later in the blog. I began my running journey in college when I decided I wanted to train for a marathon; unfortunately, I experienced a number of ankle and lower leg injuries that halted my progress towards this goal. I loved running so much that I did not give up; I rehabbed my injuries, was able to run a half marathon earlier this year, and I am once again training for a full marathon next Summer.

There can be many reasons why someone may want to refrain from running including level of difficulty, lack of time, and maybe even pain with the task. That being said, a good running program can offer some great benefits both in the short and long term; what makes this even better is it is not hard at all to incorporate into your training! SO.. let’s discuss many of the reasons why you should consider incorporating running into your exercise routine and how you can get started.

1. Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Benefits

The cardiopulmonary benefits are probably one of the most well-known benefits of running. The term “cardio” as an exercise has almost become synonymous with walking and running. This is because walking and running has a direct impact on your heart and lung function. Different running programs will have different effects on your cardiovascular system, similar to how different strength training programs will yield different results on your muscles. Generally speaking, after your runs, you can rest assured knowing that you are working to reduce your future risk of cardiovascular disease by improving your heart and lung fitness, blood pressure regulation, and blood sugar management.

2. Muscular Conditioning

There is no question that, when performed correctly, running can provide strength and conditioning benefits to muscles throughout your entire body. Proper running mechanics require you to pump your arms to help with propulsion, engage your core to stabilize your body, absorb impact with your legs, and drive forward with your legs. Thus, running will allow you to aid in toning your muscles and build endurance for sustained activities!

3. Weight Management

When you combine the first two listed benefits, you gain a tertiary effect of being able to manage your weight a bit better. Running, alone, will not directly lead to fat loss (you will need to complement this with direct strength training and a proper meal plan) but improvements in your conditioning and cardiovascular system along with the extra calories burned while running can help reduce your risk of weight gain! Additionally, as you progress with your running journey, you will likely pick up more and more healthy habits that will aid in your weight and fitness goals.

4. Bone Health

Bones become stronger and healthier when you challenge them to work against heavy loads. The forces on your bones while you are running can be equal to 3-5 times your body weight each time you take a step. This means that you are consistently placing high loads on your bones while you are running (most notably through your legs, hips, and spine) which will help them to develop, grow, and become stronger!

5. Mental Health

Physical activity and exercise leads to a cascade of increased “feel-good” hormones, a decrease in stress hormones, and improved ability to regulate all hormones. From a psychological point of view, exercise allows you to feel empowered when you surpass your goals and reach new milestones. Distance running also has the unique ability to help you develop overall mental fortitude due to the nature of the prolonged activity and pushing yourself to continue when you may not have the desire to do so.

6. Natural Energy Boost

It is common to hear individuals state that they are feeling “tired”, “fatigued”, “exhausted”, or any other synonym indicating a lack of energy. What if I told you that being physically active can improve how you feel and give you a boost of energy? It may sound counterintuitive but it is true; physical activity helps us feel more alert and reduces the overall sense of fatigue.

7. Brain Power

It has been shown across many studies that aerobic exercise helps improve your memory and cognitive function! This becomes especially important for the aging adult where cognitive decline becomes more apparent. Running offers a way for people to counter this regression and improve overall brain power!

8. The COMS

As you grow in your running journey, you will naturally find the “COMS”... Community and Competition! Having a running buddy always makes the activity more enjoyable and it actually helps you push harder on the days when you really lack motivation; what is great about the running community is that you will be able to find running groups in your neighborhood, on social media, or you can just as easily meet someone on the trail that you click with. And you can quench your competitive thirst by signing up for all types of running events based on your current abilities!

9. Outdoor Opportunities

You can totally run on a treadmill, no one is saying that is wrong; but, speaking from experience, it may become uninspiring after some time. Running outdoors can be more stimulating than running on a treadmill because you have countless things in front of you to see and explore during the run. If you do this, you will likely find places and objects in your neighborhood that you did not previously realize existed. Running on a trail or at a beach will get you closer to nature. Additionally, you can get your daily healthy dose of Vitamin D if you run when the sun is out, just make sure you add some sunscreen!

10. Low Barrier to Entry

Running is one of the most affordable forms of exercise that currently exists because you really only need one piece of equipment: a good pair of running shoes. Most people already have some type of athletic shoe which is a good place to start; if you decide to up your running game, you can find the right type of footwear for your specific feet, running style, and goals at most running shoe stores (or you can also come into Physical Therapy San Pedro and ask your Physical Therapist). Once you’ve got some athletic footwear, all you need to do is go outside and run this town!

So now that you have seen the potential benefits of running, we know that you are wondering “how do I get started?” As I mentioned in the last few paragraphs, implementing running into your training program can be as simple as grabbing your old pair of trainers and taking a few laps around your block. You can seek out a set of running shoes that work specifically for you. You can also find running partners and groups that will help support you with your training. If you have specific goals or injury concerns, come into the clinic, and together, we can work to set up a training program tailored just for you!

I hope you learned enough to get your started. Start with a walk. Let it turn into a jog. And then when you are ready to take it all the way pick up that pace and start running!

Have questions? Send us a direct message. Got an injury keeping you from getting started? Contact us to book an appointment. We can treat you onsite or virtually through Telehealth.


Dr. Sandoval & The PTSP Team

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