Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Running Bad For You?

Also Known As: jogging



Short answer

Running is not bad for you when done responsibly as a way to stay fit and healthy. Long distance running or excessive running at any speed, however, can have negative consequences.



Long answer

While running is largely considered to be one of the healthiest things you can do for your body, some experts are beginning to suggest that long distance running is not the best option from an overall wellness standpoint. There is much debate surrounding the validity as to whether or not activities like marathons and other medium to long distance running events are healthy.

Critics that argue long distance running is not intended for humans point towards the high prevalence of injury among dedicated runners. Studies show that 90 percent of runners who complete a marathon race have experienced an injury in their training. Many Orthopedic doctors, Sports medicine doctors, Rheumatologist, and Physical therapist do not advocate for long distance running. With conditions like early onset osteoarthritis, strain injuries, loss of bone density, and permanent scarring of the heart muscle, running long distance appears to cause more harm than good.

Many do not agree with this perspective and argue that our bodies were clearly meant for running, based on how we are designed. For example, we have a straight big toe, which allows our feet to push off the ground, and our tendons and ligaments are constructed for running movements. We have a strong sense of balance, and our glutes are used primarily when running, and not walking.

The argument only gets more confusing when you add in the experts who contend that these features, which make our body successful at running, are also ideal for walking, hiking, climbing, and crawling. Moreover, running requires glycogen, which we have limited quantities of in our bodies, and running for long distances depletes these glycogen levels leaving us exhausted. Therefore, short sprints a couple times a day is more conducive to human health, in keeping with the design of the human body.

Ultimately, those who pursue long distance running must do so safely. Running on surfaces like asphalt and concrete or using poorly constructed shoes leaves the runner at a disadvantage. Furthermore, many people do not take the time to train correctly. While our bodies can adapt through appropriate training and improvements in stamina, many runners overexert themselves and use poor running technique. Other critical factors that lead to running injuries are a poor diet and not getting enough sleep.

As with any workout, keeping on top of your health is key. Whether or not our bodies are created for long distance running, exercise is an important part of our health. Excessive running carries significant risks beyond muscular or bone injury. Heart attacks occur among some people that run frequently, either because they have underlying heart conditions they were not aware of, or because they have high cholesterol levels or high blood pressure. It is important to note that the heart will develop scar tissue as a result of over exertion, the consequences can be fatal.

Overall, running has its benefits, especially for those who want to lose weight or stay active. In fact, running releases neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which gives the runner a ‘natural high’. However, there are important risks to consider. It’s important to train at a slow, steady pace, and never over-exert yourself. Always openly communicate with your doctor, and know your personal risks. From a design standpoint, we may not be meant for long distance running, but we should exercise caution while running. As with any sport, don’t forget to take your rest days!

Possible short-term side effects

  • release of neurotransmitters
  • strain injuries (muscles, tendons, and ligaments)

Possible long-term side effects

  • damage to the heart (scaring)
  • osteoarthritis
  • permanent injuries to muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments
  • sciatica


  • great for weight loss
  • keeps you active
  • shown to reduce stress
  • reduces bone fractures/breaks
  • reduces risk of disease
  • possibly boosts confidence

Healthier alternatives

  • elliptical bike
  • short sprints
  • swimming
  • walking

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 06-12-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 06-12-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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