It sounds almost absurd; the notion that running can be actually bad for you. After all, we have been taught from a young age that we need to exercise for the good of our health and if we don't buy into this, we will be susceptible to a whole host of health conditions including various heart conditions.
Let's not also forget that exercise is responsible for a lot of benefits to the human body as well. It can reduce stress levels, make you more confident and in short, the list could go on.
However, let's throw a curveball into the mix. More and more people are starting to buy into the philosophy of "runner's face" and are seriously concerned that this is making them look a lot older.
We'll get onto the ins and outs of runner's face shortly, but the premise of it is that your face suffers as a result of the intense movements that it experiences as you run. If you don't have an idea what we are referring to, one only has to see a mid-action shot of someone running to see that their face has been pushed into all sorts of different angles. Well, runner's face is a take on this; it's a more permanent look that tends to leave people with a thinner and gaunter face. It's this sort of appearance which tends to be associated with the aging process, which is why the suggestion of you looking older because of running has come about.
What is the history of runner's face?
Following on from the above, let's take a look at just how the idea of runner's face has come about.
The research behind it is actually quite old. The studies published about it went to print a significant number of years ago, and concluded that those who run are more likely to look older because of oxidative stress and the fact that there are more free radicals around.
Of course, there is some basis to this research. Since the initial publications, experts have agreed on the fact that runners might have more free radicals, for the simple reason that these tend to be produced when the body is put under stress. Any sort of production of free radicals can cause aging signs, with a breakdown of collagen being the most common, so based on this it comes as no surprise that medical journals concluded with these findings.
On the plus side, this damage can be halted in its tracks. For example, if you consume more free radicals, with fruits and leafy greens being some of the most common options, you can balance out the situation and prevent the damage somewhat.
The situation can get worse if you run outside
For those of you who run on a treadmill, there is evidence to suggest that this might not actually make you look as old. This is because when you are indoors, you are protected from the air which is home to a whole host of pollutants.
Not only that, but let's not also forget about direct damage from the sun. The sun's radiation can prompt thickened skin, wrinkles and even cancer, so making sure that you are adequately protected from the rays should be an absolute priority. How can you do this? This isn't anything advanced; simply wearing sunscreen or protective clothing will suffice and ultimately preserve your youth a little longer.
What about the physical impact of running?
When the notion of runner's face is first mooted, many point to the impact from the ground itself. In other words, every time your body comes into contact with the ground, it seemingly sends shockwaves right through it and your face "flutters" as a result.
However, the experts claim that this isn't a concern in the slightest. It won't cause you to age more quickly, and that should be the end of the matter.
Should you stop all forms of exercise, then?
Of course not, let's not forget that exercise is a crucial part of everyday life and needs to be incorporated in as many ways as possible.
For example, if we hone in on running specifically, this is something that can boost your circulation and also improve the amount of oxygen that is delivered to your skin. The upshot of this is that you will of course increase the amount of collagen you produce, and therefore look younger. There are also theories that suggest with more blood flow, your cells are more likely to regenerate.
There are then suggestions that sweat can work wonders when it comes to your skin as well. Sweat is made up of the body's waste products, like urea and ammonia, so removing these is something that can make a huge difference. Not only that, but sweat has been found to boost the production of sebum, which is a natural oil, and can soften and moisturize your skin. In other words, it's further work that can make you look younger. Of course, you should still wash the sweat off from your body, as if this mixes with dirt or any makeup it can start to clog your pores, and this is where problems begin.
Let's conclude this section about how exercises impact your stress levels. This is something that can reduce cortisol, which is responsible for managing your stress levels.
The power of moderation
Following on from the above, it appears as though runner's face leaves individuals with a difficult situation. After all, the science says that running can make you age, but at the same time it has a number of benefits. It begs the question, what should you do?
Of course, no author in their right mind is going to suggest that you give up exercise, particularly in today's day and age it would be a ridiculous course of action to follow.
However, some experts believe that you should sometimes try and tame your efforts when it comes to this exercise. Pushing your body beyond its boundaries can mean that the impact on your skin, and thus your perceived age, is affected. Furthermore, unless you are a professional athlete, some would question just why you need to push yourself to such extents.
Moderation is of course something that we hear a lot nowadays. However, the problem with exercise is that it is largely regarded as a good thing, when in reality it involves damaging your cells. It's the latter part which a lot of people miss and while this repairing process is obviously crucial when it comes to the regrowth of cells for muscle-building purposes, when you push it too far your body can struggle to cope.
As such, you should be looking to achieve a happy medium. For those who rely on statistics, and what you should be exactly targeting, it's generally understood that you should be aiming to exercise no more than five times per week, operating somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you surpass this, there is every chance that your cells are actually going to start to get damaged, rather than get to that "repairing and rebuilding" state that most people crave.