Today I am going to talk about endurance sports and explain whether they are beneficial for our health or damaging.
It is almost impossible to go out of your house now and not see someone pounding the pavements in a flash pair of running shoes. However, do you ever stop to think whether this is actually beneficial compared to other forms of exercise?
Just because seemingly everyone does something doesn’t mean that you should too. This article is going to examine whether or not endurance training such as long distance running, cycling, and rowing is good for our bodies or whether it can be damaging for our bodies.
What Is Endurance?
First things first, let’s look at exactly what muscular endurance is. Simply put, it’s the ability of a muscle to exert force and power over a long distance or time. It also comes coupled with aerobic training which is where the body uses oxygen in order to complete the movement.
Anaerobic training such as weightlifting or powerlifting involves little to no oxygen and focuses on short bursts of energy. Examples of this are 100m sprints, 1-3 heavy reps or tall vertical jumps. You measure each mode of training differently.
Strength training is focused on how much weight you can lift or the level of resistance, endurance training focuses on how long you can go for or how many repetitions you can complete.
One of the main issues with endurance training is the impact on the joints. Activities such as running which involve repeatedly pounding into the ground can create problems for the ankles, knees and hips.
I see so many people running and they have knee supports and are not moving freely. This is due to joint issues that are painful, uncomfortable, and limit a persons range of movement.
Overusing joints through completing the same movement for long periods of time can cause issues such as tendonitis which will inflame your joints and can be a degenerative issue.
This is not to say strength training can’t have these problems, but they’re far less common if practiced correctly.
As the focus of strength training is to improve the strength of the muscles, this can directly improve joint health. Endurance training unfortunately does not carry this benefit.
More and more research is showing that too much cardio can be bad for you. When I say too much cardio I mean running for long periods of time at a competitive intensity. Don’t be alarmed if you visit the gym 5 times a week; you will be fine.
Research has shown that endurance sports can put an unusual stress on the heart. You may look at a marathon runner as the ultimate athlete however the damage can be inside their body.
Repeated extreme exercise that puts a strain on the body can cause a build up of scar tissue on the heart. Your heart is a muscle and if it is overworked then you can cause long-term damage.
Endurance exercise can also cause
- Premature ageing of the heart
- Stiffening of the heart muscles
- A weakened immune system
- Exercise induced Asthma
Overtraining is an extremely common issue in the fitness world, yet it is one that is not taken seriously. Many people believe that the more they do, the fitter they will be however this is not the case.
Overtraining is the result of training too hard through intensity or duration resulting in giving your body more work or stress than it can handle. This occurs when a person experiences stress or physical trauma from exercise faster than their body can handle.
Overtraining results in
- Decreased performance
- General fatigue
- Poor sleep
None of the effects of overtraining are wanted so make sure that you train effectively instead of overtraining and causing damage.
Are There Any Benefits Of Endurance Training?
After discussing the doom and gloom of endurance training, I would like to cover some benefits of endurance training.
For starters, it’s a very accessible form of exercise which can help with fat loss, bone density and musculature. Not to mention its effects on lung capacity and heart function. As endurance training helps improve the body’s ability to transport nutrients and oxygen around the body, it reduces the workload placed upon the cardiovascular system.
Please bear in mind that you can get the benefits of endurance training or continuous cardiovascular exercise from a 5km run, or a 20 mile bike ride. If you work on your endurance sensibly by not exercising for over one hour then you will be improving your health rather than damaging it.
As well as all of this, many people find endurance training to put them into a meditative state. In turn, this can help improve concentration and mental performance whilst reducing stress and anxiety. It can also help with both coordination and balance which correlate to improved brain function.
Overall Thoughts On Endurance Sports
So, what’s the best approach? You’ve probably been told this in every other health article you’ve read but that’s just because it’s true: moderation is everything.
Moderately training in a variety of activities will give you a range of benefits and stop you from getting bored. You need to make sure that you are allowing sufficient recovery in between your exercise sessions, especially if you have been on a big run.
I would advise you to limit your runs to one hour as more can be damaging to your health rather than beneficial.
At the end of the day, as long as you’re not doing the same thing every day, training too hard too often and you’re following an exercise plan you enjoy, then your body will thank you for it.