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Running Is Not Just About Losing Weight

Running Is Not Just About Losing Weight

#Supplement #WeightLoss #Weight #Yoga

You may well be taking up running to lose weight, and the fact that you are is a good thing. Running will help you on your journey, and over a period of time you will notice a degree of weight loss that will make you feel proud. The unachievable target weight that you struggled to reach will no longer seem like a distant dream.

Many individuals who take up running sometimes get too focussed on the weight loss aspect of it that they fail to notice what it might be doing to their overall health.

For example, running can improve cardiovascular fitness, and help maintain a healthy heart. The flow of blood through the arteries around the heart is improved remarkably with exercise, and running has such an effect too.

Heart Matters
Let's get into the science of things a little bit here. The blood vessels in our body are lined by a single layer of tiny cells called 'endothelial cells'. These cells are sensitive to changes in the environment within the blood vessels. When exercising, these cells are stimulated, which results in the production of a compound called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide has a property of relaxing the blood vessels around the heart (and the rest of the body). Relaxation of blood vessels means that they can allow the flow of more blood through them in times of need. This extra flow of blood is essential to maintain normal heart function during rest and during exercise.

In addition, by promoting normal endothelial cell function, exercise also prevails the arteries from clogging up with fat and blood cells (which are responsible for causing a heart attack). In a nutshell, regular exercise helps maintain a healthy heart.

But that's not all.

Running can keep the gastro-intestinal system healthy. It helps in good digestion and normal bowel movements.

Running can reduce blood pressure and can improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Running can increase concentration and enhance memory.

These are facts about running that must not be ignored.

Weight loss contributes to a lot of these benefits as well, but many time we just focus on how much weight we have lost rather than what else running is doing for our health. In a sense, weight loss is visible, while the remaining benefits are 'invisible' (but still important).

Now you may ask the question – 'you say running can prevent heart disease, but because people dropped dead during a 10km run?'

Fair question and a relevant one too.

Majority of runners and athletes who die during running or sports do so due to a number of reasons that are not related to the sport itself. The common causes include –

1. Congenital heart problems – The athlete might have had a birth condition of their heart that had remained undiagnosed.

2. Problems with electrical conduct in the heart – This can cause irregular rhythms that can lead to collapse and sometimes death.

3. Inequate hydration – Dehydration is a common cause of collapse and rarely causes death. Maintain proper hydration is essential. We have discussed this later in the book.

4. Over-hydration – Did you know that over-hydrating yourself is also a bad thing? Drinking too much water not only leaves your stomach full; it can lead to water introxication (yes, there is such a condition!). Water introxication drops the levels of sodium in the blood, leading to a condition called hyponatremia. This can be a dangerous condition if not treated promptly.

It is important to ensure that you are safe to take up running before you make a start. Most gyms and running clubs will ask you to sign a waiver or health form where you declare that you do not suffer from any illness. It is not possible to know if you have high blood pressure unless you get it checked. Similarly, it is not possible to know if you have structural heart disease unless you have an echocardiogram.

We always recommend some basic investigations for all patients who are planning to take up any form of exercise, particularly running. Simple blood tests, an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and an exercise treadmill test can help detect any underlying heart problems.

By Dr Vivek Baliga

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