What are the Risks of Running in Obesity?

About 350,000 people die every year due to obesity related diseases in the United States. About 58 million are overweight in America. Even though these facts are overbearing, obesity needs to be tackled in an organized and well researched manner.

A lot of obese people would suddenly get started on a running regimen in an attempt to lose weight without appraising the risks associated with it. In this article, we examine some risks of starting a running program.

Running without proper guidance in obesity or when you are overweight can do more harm than good. It can put the body and heart under severe stress without proper acclimation. Running would be a good idea but it is important to gradually ease into a running regimen rather than starting abruptly.

Running in obesity is risky

Risks Associated with an Abrupt Running Program

  • When you are running, the foot to surface impact ratio is about three to four times the weight of the body. The heavier you are, the more strain you are putting on your leg muscles, joints and surrounding tissue. This increases the likelihood of sprains, strains, joint dislocations and many other musculoskeletal injuries. This is highly due to overweight and obese individuals which have been leading a mostly sedentary life.
  • Overweight runners end up enduring a lot of stress on the impacting joints. The joints can become irritated and inflamed, leading to pain and soreness.
  • It is very common for overweight and obese people to have atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Running is an intense cardiovascular activity which pumps blood faster to the heart and increases the heart rate. This is so because the oxygen supplied to the exerting muscles needs to be increased. If there is a problem in the oxygen supply, the individual may suffer a heart attack.
  • Running can also strain the back muscles and spine due to improper spinal alignment and weak muscles. It may worsen any existing spinal condition. The entire upper body weight bears down on the lower body and back creating more reactive force to the joints.

Preventive measures which can reduce the risks of obesity in running

  • Start with a general walking regimen and gradually increase your distance each week.
  • Try losing 5 % to 7% of body weight with a calorie controlled diet and increase other daily activities.
  • Light active stretching prior to walking will help prime the muscles and joints for activity.
  • Increase to jogging for short periods when walking gets easier.
  • Try some low impact terrains for running in the beginning. Steer away from hills and uneven surfaces.
  • Stay well hydrated before and during your program.
  • Take the advice of your doctor before you get started on any sudden change in your physical activity.
  • Stop running if you experience any severe discomfort or pain.


Mayo Clinic Staff; Arteriosclerosis / atherosclerosis; Mayoclinic.com; June 23, 2010; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/arteriosclerosis-atherosclerosis/DS00525

Steven P. Van Camp, M.D., FACSM; John D. Cantwell, M.D., Gerald F. Fletcher, M.D., L. Kent Smith, M.D., and Paul D. Thompson, M.D.; Exercise for Patients with Coronary Artery Disease; American College of Sports Medicine; ; http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/position-stands/position-stands/lists/position-stands/exercise-for-patients-with-coronary-artery-disease

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