Physiotherapists regularly prescribe exercise as a fundamental part of the rehabilitation process, following a muscle or joint injury for example. Running is a very common form of exercise to which many patients will want to progress, when enough function has returned, in order to build up their fitness again. But is running the best exercise for improving fitness?
The short answer is no, in my opinion.
However, possibly a more appropriate answer would likely be that it depends on what your fitness goals are and how you want to define fitness.
Let’s take a look at a local event to help describe what I mean. The Great Ireland Run 10km recently passed earlier in April with the winners achieving some impressive results; men’s first place came in under 30 minutes and the women’s first achieved a 33 minutes and 39 seconds. How do we think the top running athletes prepare for such an event? They will do a lot of running training no doubt but I am certain this is not all they do. Athletes performing at this level need to be in peak physical fitness to sustain the demands they are placing on their bodies and to keep their risk of injury as low as possible.
You may be wondering what do top performing athletes have in common with patient rehabilitation and recreational running. Well, my point is that we can learn from the best in their field and adopt some of the principles used in their training. Naturally our training won’t be nearly as intense or demanding as that of elite athletes so what can we learn from them?