What does running do to the body?

With a reported 2 million of us in the UK doing it on a regular basis, running is a popular and thrifty way to keep fit. All you need is a trusty pair of trainers and you’re set to start building up your fitness. But what actually happens to the body when we run, and how do you prevent injuries?

Step by step

As you set off… molecules called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) are unpacked and absorbed by your muscles to get you moving. ATP is distributed as glycogen from your blood, the body’s natural energy and a form of glucose, is broken down.

In the first few minutes… the body requires plenty of oxygen to use glucose efficiently, so your muscles release lactic acid which signifies to the brain that the body is under stress and in need of energy. The brain then increases your heart rate, pumps more blood towards your muscles, and boosts respiration.

Adjusting to the heat… this sudden increase in activity and the burning of calories causes your body temperature to increase. To avoid overheating, blood vessels dilate and move blood closer to the skin’s surface to cool it down. As this happens you should begin to sweat and you may notice that your skin appears red and flushed.

Testing your stamina… eventually, your energy supply will start to dwindle. When this happens, the level of lactic acid in the body starts to surpass that of ATP, resulting in muscle pain and cramps. Your legs will begin to ache and you may start to feel out of breath.

The cool down… once you come to a stop, your breathing and heart rate will normalise. The brain produces endorphins during exercise, so you should be left with a general feeling of positivity and accomplishment.

Get the most out of running

The physical processes of running can do wonders for your fat and muscle balance. With regular exercise, fat is reduced and lean muscle is developed in its place. Muscle increase combined with an improvement to your cardiovascular health makes for a stronger body, and this can result in a superior metabolism. A balanced diet goes hand-in-hand with any workout routine, and running is no exception. You’ll need to replenish burned calories with nutritious foods in order to sustain the development of muscle in line with a reduction of fat.

Avoiding and treating injury

There’s a risk of injury with any form of exercise. Running places stress on your bones and muscles, especially your knees, feet, and ankles. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (commonly known as ‘runner’s knee’), ankle sprain, and shin splints are just some examples of common running injuries.

You should always warm up before any form of exercise to prevent muscle strains and prepare your body for physical activity. Ensure that you are wearing appropriate shoes that are a good fit, provide adequate support to your ankles and cushion the impact of your feet against the ground. If you experience pain or injury from running, seek advice from an expert physician who will be able to provide suitable treatments and can refer you for physiotherapy if appropriate. 

The range of these treatments involves several approaches. These can include a series of regular localised exercises designed to strengthen and improve the movement of a specific area of the body. Hydrotherapy is an option, whereby exercises are undertaken in warm, shallow water. This relaxes muscles and joints, providing support and installing a layer of resistance that works to gradually build strength. Manual therapy and massages can also treat localised problems, relieving pain by improving blood circulation and relaxing muscles. Your physician will be able to explain the best solution for your body and needs.

About One Stop Doctors

Providing quality expert care with a state-of-the-art physiotherapy and movement rehabilitation clinic, One Stop Doctors offers personalised advice and treatments for all aspects of healthcare including running-related problems. The clinic also offers a range of health services including cutting-edge diagnostics, aesthetics, dentistry, and GP care. Click here to find out more and book an appointment.