I have compiled some highlights from the 2016 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) annual meeting, which was held recently in Boston. I hope this information improves your running and your overall health.
1/ Running is still good for you - and your heart. There has been a fair amount of press dedicated to the potential for long-term endurance activity causing problems for the heart. Renowned cardiologist Paul Thompson gave an eloquent summary of the data and concluded that for most of us long-term activity is a tremendous health benefit that outweighs the small potential for damage to the heart. While there may be runners who exercise at extremely high levels for many years, those who actually exercise at those levels will be few and those affected with exercise-induced heart problems will be fewer.
2/ Skip your race if you've been ill. It appears that running with recent illness increases your risk of serious medical problems and the likelihood that you will not finish a distance race. In one four-year study, race participants were emailed a symptom list. They were advised to not start the race if they had any of the symptoms recently. As a result of this proactive measure, medical encounters and race drop-outs were decreased.
3/ Get your kids moving. Children worldwide do not get nearly enough moderate to vigorous physical activity to meet their health and fitness needs. Kids who have physical activity incorporated into the school day seem to do better academically. As a parent, you could try to encourage participation in fun runs and other family exercise activities on a regular (almost daily) basis.
4/ Do young athletes need cardiac screenings? It's still up in the air as sudden cardiac arrest in children and teen athletes is rare. It is clear that athletes of all ages should not ignore specific symptoms, including passing out (or nearly passing out) with exercise, chest pressure or pain with exercise (especially if the two happen together), or racing, pounding or skipping heart beats. If there is a family history of unexpected cardiac events or unexplained sudden death, Marfan syndrome, or any of the preceding symptoms, children and adolescents (and adults, too!) should be evaluated by a physician versed in the problems of the heart and exercise.
5/ Listen to your body. Do not ignore or self-diagnose persistent pain with running; it could result in a stress fracture (or other injury) during a run or race.