You’ve been running for years and have always enjoyed it, but lately your knees, hips and other joints are not so happy with your choice of exercise.
It’s not uncommon for long distance runners to find that it takes a toll on their body after doing it for a while. In particular, high impact running on city streets over sustained periods of time can put a lot of stress on your joints and cause the cartilage to break down in some cases. Runner’s World reports that sustained marathon running can even lead to severe knee damage over time.
It makes you wonder — is running really the best exercise for you? Maybe there’s something else out there that’s equally satisfying and won’t cause any more potential damage to your knees and other joints. It may surprise you, but many people who have developed a deep love and commitment to running are making the switch to yoga. Why? Because you’ll still get many of the same benefits, and you’ll be able to enjoy them without worries that you’re putting your body at risk.
Saving the Joints
As Runner’s World and other publications have reported in the last decade, the knees and other joints are really taking a beating from sustained long-distance running. In severe cases, running can break down the cartilage in the joints so much that it causes bone-on-bone contact.
Yoga, on the other hand, can provide not only low-to-no impact endurance exercise, but also strengthen and even heal joint injuries. A research study mentioned on Livestrong.com in 2010 discusses the benefits various types of yoga can provide in the treatment of pain brought on from arthritis, a disease that can also be linked to joint pain and injury.
Where running, over time, tends to break down the knees and other joints, yoga can actually strengthen them, with special attention to rebuilding and strengthening the muscles around these joints. Stronger muscles around our joints help keep them working right and can serve as an insurance policy against further injury.
Working the Whole Body
Another major difference between the regular practice of yoga and running is the opportunity to work more muscles more of the time. Running, like many repetitive, long distance sports, tends to work only certain parts of the body. Because of the limited number of movements you experience while running, many muscle sets and even entire areas of your body get little – if any – attention.
In contrast, yoga works on the premise of moving as much of the body as possible, allowing oxygen to move into parts of it that would otherwise get none during our daily routine. Because we are using more than just our extremities and limbs, we can rest assured that many other parts of our body are getting a workout as well. Short of using a comprehensive training program, it’s one of the most full-body workouts out there.
It’s All about the Spine
Sure, running can wreak havoc on many of our joints, but what about our backs? We’ve all seen what happens to people when they get older and how they can actually lose an inch or two in height. This is due in large part to the decreased mass of the soft tissue between the vertebrae that can get compressed and reduced in size as we age. Running causes shock waves to blast through your spine, which can lead to both short term pain and long-term damage if you’re not careful.
Many poses found in yoga, though, are designed to strengthen the spine and specifically the soft tissue between the vertebrae. Some long-term yoga practitioners have even seen an increase in height in their students who practice regularly over a sustained period of time.
Running has become vastly popular in many Western cultures, and for some it has become the mainstay of the endurance athlete. But as yoga continues to grow and spread to more and more different demographic groups, many aging and retiring runners are beginning to discover it. Yoga’s healing powers, combined with the pleasure and strength you can gain from it, have convinced many to give up running altogether.
In fact, if you haven’t taken up running, you may just want to skip right past it and find your way to the yoga mat. It will keep you in good health for a lifetime, and may be a good bet for keeping you out of the orthopedics’ office as well.
Author Bio: Josh Weiss-Roessler is a freelance writer who contributes to many websites, including Weight Loss Triumph where you can find weight loss systems reviews. He frequently writes about weight loss, fitness, and health topics and enjoys both yoga and running. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles, CA, with his wife, son, and two dogs.