Juliette Kando is a dancer, choreologist, author on fitness and health, and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.
Is Jogging Bad For You?
While jogging is believed to help build strong muscles and bones, burn calories, increase lung power for a healthy heart, fight depression and give you a better night's sleep, could it have adverse effects? And if so, are there any other activities that have the same benefits without the disadvantages of jogging?
Research by the Copenhagen City Heart Study conducted on a population of 20,000 subjects shows that the death rate for light joggers was 90% lower than that of non-joggers, while that of moderate joggers was about 60% lower. Surprisingly, the death rate for strenuous joggers was no different than that of sedentary non-joggers. It is nice to know the facts. What could the reasons be behind those results?
- Posture and alignment
- Being overweight
- Injuries caused by jogging
- Shoe wear
- Treadmill jogging
- Does jogging really fight depression?
Each of the above reasons are discussed in detail below, but first, what actually happens to the body during jogging?
What Happens During Jogging?
Every running or jogging step is a traveling jump from one foot onto the other. So when you are jogging or running, it constitutes repetitive high impact (full body weight) landing on one foot at a time. Watch the next 40-second video to see what happens when someone jogs on flat feet (also called pes planus or fallen arches), which is a very common postural deformity in which the inside of the sole of the foot drops towards the ground.
1. Posture and Alignment
As shown in several of my previous articles, the feet are the foundations of the body. Correct toes and foot alignment is a prerequisite to achieving correct posture. Alignment in the foot and toes is even more important in jogging. High impact landing on misaligned toes and feet worsens their condition. Not only that; an upward rippling effect from the feet will put the ankle, knee and hip joints, even the spine and neck also out of alignment.
Over-curvatures in the spine like lordosis (exaggerated inward curve at the lower back) and kyphosis (rounded upper back) plus scoliosis (sideways deviating spine) all take the high impact landing. Jogging makes those curves even deeper and consequently make it harder for the body to keep you balanced in the upright position.
Why? Because carrying an over-curved spine demands much more muscle action. Unnecessarily overworked muscles begin to cramp and end up in chronic spasm which is what you feel when you have a backache.
Needless to add that the seven neck vertebrae, which might already be over-curved from carrying the head in front of the body instead of straight above it, will also increase their misalignment with high impact pressure from gravity during jogging, resulting in ever increasing chronic neck pain.
2. Being Overweight
If you are overweight, the high impact pressure on each landing is even greater and therefore causes greater damage than to a slim person.
In short, jogging may put you at risk of a number of common injuries arising from high impact landing on a poor posture. Some of them are listed below.
3. Injuries Caused by Jogging
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the fibrous tissue that runs along the middle of sole of the foot.
Ankle Pain: Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles tendon is the connection between the calf and the heel. When the calf muscles are too tight or not properly warmed up by gentle stretching before jogging, the tendon may be abruptly overstretched, become irritated and inflamed.
Patellofemoral* pain syndrome is pain felt at the front of the knee, either under or around the edges of the kneecap.
* Patellofemoral: patella = kneecap, femur = thigh bone
The term "shin splints" covers a number of conditions that cause pain along the inside of the shin like inflammation of fascia and connective tissues that surround muscles in the lower leg.
Hip bursitis is a pain felt on the outside of the hip bone and may radiate down the outside of the thigh and to the buttock, the groin and lower back.
When a bone is made to absorb more weight and impact than it can handle, a stress fracture (small crack) may occur. Stress fractures caused by jogging mostly take place in the feet, ankles, lower legs or thigh bones.
4. Shoe Wear
Even the most expensive trainers are not shaped to take the natural shape of a human foot. The natural given shape of a foot has the toes spreading out just like the hands: in a fan shape. It is almost impossible to find shoes or trainers with enough room in the front part of the shoe to allow the necessary room for the toes to spread to achieve optimum balance.
For that reason, and to be completely on the safe side with your well aligned feet, it would be best to jog (if you must) on bare feet on the moist part of the beach or on a grass field.
No More Injuries: No Pain, Just Gain
Injuries can be avoided if a jogger does the following:
- A proper warm-up
- Maintains perfect posture
- Has well-aligned feet
- Doesn't wear any shoes
- Is not overweight
Doesn't it somehow defeat the purpose, though, if you go jogging to lose weight?
5. Treadmill Jogging
Today's feature packed treadmills with color touchscreen options for speed, inclination, distance, timing and heart rate plus wireless internet connectivity can take the user into a complete virtual world while working out. Yet in reality jogging on a treadmill while staying on the spot in a noisy, enclosed, air conditioned environment, deprived of clean fresh air, is akin to a mouse running on a wheel in a cage. Captive mice and hamsters do it because they have no alternative and instinctively know that without movement their body will atrophy and die, but it does look insane, doesn't it?
Furthermore, the idea that having to pay a gym membership fee or buy an expensive special piece of equipment for an activity that is so natural and freely at the body's disposal, seems as insane as the mouse trapped in a cage running on that wheel, except the mouse is better off—she doesn't have to pay for it.
6. Does Jogging Really Fight Depression?
In an article in Psychology Today entitled "Can Jogging Relieve Depression?" Dr Joshua Gowin concludes, "There is no statistical evidence that jogging relieves depression. To determine how well exercise works as a treatment we need more high-quality research."
From a choreologist's point of view, the psychological impact of performing an action that leads to nowhere in purely physical terms, or an action that does not meet its natural given purpose, may actually cause frustration.
What is an Action's Nature Given Purpose?
In this case, running, by nature, involves running towards a specific goal for a specific reason. For example, it is quite natural to run away when you are chased by a hungry lion. More in our own world, it is quite natural to run to catch a bus or a tram or to save a child from falling into the swimming pool. Such natural running actions respond to natural healthy brain commands with immediate purpose and a goal.
The Mouse in the Cage
In jogging or running for fitness or weight loss however, we are back to the mouse in the cage effect. The purely physical part of your brain may not know that you are running to get fit or to burn calories. Could it perhaps be the case that a mental conflict arises between the purely physical brain command that says: ”you need to run now quickly for a good reason” and the rational part that knows that you are running to lose weight? Could this contradiction perhaps subconsciously create frustration and depression in the mind? This hypothesis is for the reader to ponder about. Even without this novel idea, there are enough reason to avoid jogging and find better alternatives.
Alternatives to Jogging
With all the postural, alignment, shoe wear, environmental and psychological issues plus the risk of injuries mentioned above, jogging now becomes less attractive as a means of getting fit and healthy. So what can you do instead if you are working in an office sitting at the computer all day?
Well, the answer is fitness without exercise or lifestyle integrated training. Lifestyle integrated training involves modification of one's physical behavior in day to day living in all actions we undertake. The examples that follow have been divided into two categories: 1) modification of daily habits and 2) fun recreational activities.
1. Modification of Daily Habits
Some modifications to daily habits may take more time than the old habits. To compensate for this, the last three items on this list have been added to save time.
- Walk or run up the stairs instead of using the lift.
- For advanced people, take two steps at a time.
- Use a bicycle to go to work instead of the car.
- Go shopping more frequently and only buy as much as you can carry back home on foot.
- Walk to pick up the kids from school.
- Park the car within a reasonable walking distance from your destination.
- Restrict screen time (TV, mobile phones, Facebook, iPads, computer games, etc.)
To save time:
- Save on cooking time by cooking large quantities for freezer.
- Get a cleaner once a week. (The children will have to tidy their rooms before the cleaner comes.)
- Allocate time-tabled daily chores for the children or no pocket money.
2. Fun Recreational Activities
- Take the kids or grand kids to the park to play football with them after school.
- Play a game of volley ball or go kite flying with your friends on the beach.
- Take the family on a rowing trip at your local lake.
- Have a picnic with outdoor games.
- Go swimming outdoors with friends or family.
- Go ice skating with your family during the winter months.
- Play fun wrestling games with your children.
- Go on a bouncy castle.
- Practice your juggling skills starting with one, then two, and finally three juggling balls.
- Learn the hula hoop to perfection.
- Climb a hill or a mountain.
- Join a yoga class.
There are many more examples of fun outdoor recreational activities you can join with friends and family. They will get you as fit as a fiddle, improve your health, social life and happiness.
Convenience and Lack of Time
While you may agree with some of what has been said above, leading a busy hectic lifestyle, you may believe that there simply isn't the time to take up any of the alternative practices suggested above, but wait! While a weekly routine of jogging seems a convenient way of taking care of your body's fitness needs, stop and think for a minute. Jogging takes up extra time from your tight weekly schedule. That time can be filled with more enjoyable, more diverse and healthier alternatives. The only effort on your part is
1.) Implement modification of daily habits into your daily routine.
2.) Re-schedule your weekly timetable to include fun recreational activities.
Is jogging bad for you? Only if you do not have a perfect posture, flat feet, are overweight, wear tight trainers or believe in the insanity of the mouse in the cage effect. Finding better alternatives is healthier and easier than you think and much more fun.
- Dose of jogging and long-term mortality: the Copenhagen City Heart Study
- Common Running and Jogging Injuries
- Can Jogging Relieve Depression?
- Will Running on a Treadmill Make You Insane?
Please feel free to join the conversation below to ask questions and let readers know what you think.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Li-Jen Hew on April 14, 2018:
Hello Sue. Thanks for sharing this article. Lots of people are busy and the activities that you have listed will come in handy when they're free. :)
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on February 13, 2018:
Tessa, you asked about a video for walking. I just published the promised article "How Do You Walk?" which has several videos and a lot of info on how to develop a perfect gait.
You can find it on my profile page.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 01, 2018:
Very informative article. I am barefoot (sock foot) for the majority of my day but I can't understand doing that for light jogging - I am very light.
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on February 01, 2018:
Sorry Tessa, have not found a good video on how to walk properly yet so I am going to have to make one myself and put it into a new article which is next on my list of things to do.
Tessa Schlesinger on February 01, 2018:
You got a video on how to do that?
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on January 31, 2018:
You are one of the lucky few who doesn't have a car and use your legs to get about. Try these tips when you are out and about walking:
Lead with the pelvis (your center of gravity) not the head.
Keep the rib cage pulled up, shoulders relaxed by the side of the body.
Carry the head centered above the spine (not in front of it).
Keep the chin down to elongate the back of the neck.
You too may like to implement the above posture tips.
I wrote this article exactly for people who feel guilty not following the "no pain no gain" self-torture philosophy.
Once you understand how the body works and follow your gut feeling, taking care of the body becomes fun and pleasant: No pain, just gain!
Mary Wickison from USA on January 31, 2018:
Thank goodness for a bit of common sense on the subject. I used to feel so guilty that I didn't like to jog. In the gym I felt it was so pointless, jogging or riding a bike without going anywhere.
My posture isn't great and yet this is the first time I have read anything about it in relation to jogging.
Tessa Schlesinger on January 31, 2018:
Interesting! I ran for the bus this morning - about 3/4 of a block and I wasn't out of breath or anything when I got there, but I did mention that women nearing 70 shouldn't have to run for buses! :)
I have never been able to run. I get a stitch in my gut. Instead, I walk for about three of four hours every day - mostly because I like being out and about and I don't have a car.