By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
Don’t you just love it when an article from a reputable source validates what you’re doing and helps strengthen Navy Medicine’s February theme of ‘Heart Health?’
“Distance makes the heart grow stronger”
Jenni Osborne, MPH, CHES, Health Educator assigned to Health Promotion and Wellness Department at Naval Hospital Bremerton shared an article recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology entitled, ‘Running reduces risk of death regardless of duration, speed.’
“The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race; it’s to test the limits of the human heart”
The premise of the article is that running for only a few minutes a day or at slow speeds may significantly reduce a person’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to someone who does not run. In other words, running to the restroom at halftime might be better than nothing, but if a person dedicates a bit more energy and a little less sedentary, the benefits far outweigh the chips and dips.
“Run with your heart – not with your legs”
Exercise is a well-established manner to prevent heart disease and is essential to a well-rounded healthy lifestyle,” said Osborne.
“Your legs can make you fast, your mind can make you faster, and your heart…every mile makes it stronger and your heart returns the favor”
Researchers studied 55,137 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a 15-year period to determine whether there is a relationship between running and longevity. Data was drawn from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, where participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their running habits. In the study period, 3,413 participants died, including 1,217 whose deaths were related to cardiovascular disease. In this population, 24 percent of the participants reported running as part of their leisure-time exercise.
“You don’t need a runner body – just a runner’s heart”
Compared with non-runners, the runners had a 30 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke. Runners on average lived three years longer compared to non-runners. Also, to reduce mortality risk at a population level from a public health perspective, the authors concluded that promoting running is as important as preventing smoking, obesity or hypertension. The benefits were the same no matter how long, far, frequently or fast participants reported running. Benefits were also the same regardless of sex, age, body mass index, health conditions, smoking status or alcohol use.
“Running is like a metaphor for life – there’s always someone faster, and always someone slower – all you can do is hang in there and put your heart in it”
“Short of quitting smoking, staying physically active with something like running is the best thing someone can do for themselves,” said Capt. Steven Kewish, NHB Director for Medical Services.
“You’re a runner if you run. It’s not about how far or how long or how fast. It’s all about your heart”
NHB’s Health Promotion and Wellness is actively showcasing the Heart Health theme at local events such as the Naval Base Kitsap Sweetheart 5K Fun Run held on Feb. 12, 2015. The fun run attracted over 125 runner and walkers and also included a Kid’s Dash for younger family members.
“By supporting these events we are able to show other commands and communities what we offer in the way of support groups, classes and other events which help individuals and groups meet or exceed their health and wellness goals. Our vision is to empower people to live healthier lives,” explained Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (Fleet Marine Force) Christopher Spangler,
Health Promotion and Wellness Department Leading Petty Officer.
“You don’t have to train for competition; you don’t have to try and set a personal best and you don’t need to impress anyone. Yet every run helps to strengthen your heart, fuel your soul and improve your life”
Spangler notes an event like a fun run offers an avenue for people to be healthy and have fun. These events eliminate the competitive spirit most fear by attending a marathon or race.
“This allows runners from beginners to advance to compete but still have fun,” Spangler said.
“If you’re in it for the long run…your heart appreciates that…”
According to Spangler, there are some people who might have read or heard that running is overrated, bad or not good for knees. But not if a person is properly trained and prepared.
“The sweet spot for many appears to be five to 19 miles per week, spread throughout three or four sessions per week. Runners who followed these guidelines reaped the greatest health benefits. Their risk of death dropped by 25 percent, according to results published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,” cited Spangler, adding that consistency is key.
“Tempo Runs – where your heart takes a licking’ but keeps on ticking’!”
Spangler attests that for those unable (or unwilling) to run, even if they are able to participate at a fun run by walking they can have just as much fun and reap the benefits. Runs are open to all family members and some even allow the family dog on the course.
“A fun run can be a great opportunity for dog walkers to meet and walk or run while supporting a great event for a good cause, and improve heart health for themselves and their pet,” Spangler said.
“The question was once asked, ‘does running hills ever get easier?’ The truthful reply was, ‘No, but a person can get stronger and their heart can get healthier in taking on the challenge.’”
Starting up a program of running or walking, or combining both on a course, might be undertaken as a New Year’s resolution or because the command’s physical readiness training is around the corner. There are even marathoners and ultra-distance athletes who understand that adding a walk portion to a long run is okay. The bottom line is still putting one foot in front of the other.
“We forget the reason we do cardiovascular fitness is for the health benefits and to feel good! Moving around increases blood flow to our muscles, strengthens the heart and lungs and teaches the heart to work more efficiently,” Spangler added.
“Whether it’s a ten miler or one mile run, your heart will never regret you lacing up those sneakers and just taking that first step”
It’s proven that cardiovascular exercise also benefits more than just a stronger heart and lungs. It promotes weight loss; increased bone density; reduced stress; reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer ; temporary relief from depression and anxiety; more confidence about how you feel and how you look; better sleep; more energy; and even the intangible element of setting a good example for children to stay active as they get older.
“Make your heart smile”
Studies have shown that running promotes a Heart Health by helping to manage or prevent high blood pressure; keep arteries clear of plaque by boosting good cholesterol and lowering triglycerides (fats in blood); lower risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack and stroke. Running can also help prevent or manage other chronic conditions that greatly impact heart health such as diabetes, overweight and obesity, as it burns more calories than most other forms of aerobics.