Linking current research to running
By Nikki Reiter
Like younger runners, many older runners are greatly concerned with suffering an injury. As we age, our bodies are susceptible to more running injuries, perhaps due to other existing injuries, reduced flexibility or reduced muscle strength. A recently published article investigated whether ‘coordination variability’ in running mechanics is lower in older runners.
In an uninjured state, a runner has multiple options for movement – in other words high ‘coordination variability’ for movement patterns. However, once injured, range of motion is limited and this can affect whole body mechanics. Low ‘coordination variability’ may be an indicator of decreased ability of the body to adapt to changing situations, and also the potential for more repetitive stress on lower body structures as a result.
Here’s how it went: Younger (18-35 years) and older (45-65 years) runners were matched for mileage, height and body mass. Their gait was analyzed at a running speed of 3.5 m/s (about 8 minute miles). Joint angles and moments (how much the joint is resisting flexion/extension) were compared between the groups, as well as ‘coordination variability.’
The result: Coordination variability was similar between the two groups, thus providing both groups of runners with a similar ability to prevent injury. However, there were some differences in the way these two groups moved. Greater hip range of motion and reduced ankle moments in older runners may indicate a strategy of changing the typical shock-absorption distribution between the ankle and hip joints.
What this means: The authors suggest that since runners appear to maintain their movement patterns with increasing age, running itself may be what is keeping them healthy!
A final comment: Keep running! If you’re concerned about your ability to be a lifelong runner, take the time now to ensure you are running with proper mechanics.
Nikki Reiter is the Laboratory Coordinator in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, BC, Canada. With a master’s degree in Biomechanics and as a trained exercise physiologist, she ensures students are taking the scientific approach to training through their lab experiences. Additionally, Nikki offers online gait analysis through Run Right Gait Analysis. Visit her website www.run-right.ca for more information.