4 reasons not to jump onto the marathon-running bandwagon

In case you've been living under the rock, we are currently in the middle of a running boom.

Over the past five years or so, large numbers of folks have been pounding pavements, trails and treadmills, all in the name of getting fit, losing weight, and increasingly, to attain the holy grail of completing a marathon.

Conquering these long-distance runs has well and truly incited the fighting spirits of runners everywhere.

For many, a finisher's medal is a hard-earned totem of success and a significant personal achievement.

While marathon-running folk continue to flood my Facebook feed with their best times and short shorts, here are a few things to consider before you head out for a new pair of running shoes.

It wrecks your knees

The knees are prone to injury and damage to begin with. They bear the brunt of your body weight and are subject to daily wear and tear.

The way you stand, walk and move can have an impact on the health of your knee joints.

The problem with activities such as running or even walking is that every time your feet move up and down and touch the ground to propel your body forward, your joints are jolted and stressed.

Now, imagine doing this repeatedly and regularly for hours on end.

The repetitive stress on your knee joints can, over time, cause its ligaments to tear and its tendons to swell.

Osteoarthritis can take hold and eventually ruin a perfectly good set of knees.

You could drop dead

Early this week, a 25-year-old Singaporean woman reportedly died after participating in a 10km run.

Goh Kai Lin, who worked in an engineering firm, was said to have collapsed before she reached the finish line.

A review of research on endurance exercise conducted by the Mayo Clinic found extreme endurance exercise, such as marathons, "iron man" distance triathlons and very long-distance bicycle races, may cause structural damage to the heart, causing "scars" to occur. These scars were found in almost one in 10 of marathon finishers.

While cardiovascular (cardio) exercises can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems, including heart disease and stroke, experts point out that exercising between 30 and 60 minutes a day (depending on the intensity of your workout) is ideal, and beyond that would lead to "diminishing returns".

It could ruin your sex life

You may be decreasing your testosterone levels with your long-distance running. A study by the University of British Columbia found that male runners who ran over 40 miles (64.4km) per week had distinctly lower testosterone levels than their short-distance running counterparts.

Testosterone is a hormone that helps you increase lean muscle mass and bone density. It is also primarily responsible for sex drive in both men and women.

Low levels of testosterone can lead to increased risk of obesity, depression and a faltering bedroom experience.

You can combat this by incorporating strength training into your workout. Studies show that lifting heavy weights can boost testosterone, which in turn, enhances your muscle growth. Opt for full body, heavy exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses for optimum results.

It's not the most effective weight loss method

Contrary to popular belief, cardio exercises such as running or bicycling, are not the holy grail to weight loss.

While cardio exercises burn more calories than strength training during your workout, lifting weights actually torches more fat overall.

In a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, women who completed an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than those who skipped the weights.

Putting your body through the same routine regularly may also cause performance to plateau, because your body would have adapted to the repetitive training stimulus and is no longer challenged. When this occurs, your exercise programme is no longer effective, and you are not making gains from your workout.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't run at all, but as with chocolates and wine, moderation is key to maintaining good health.

Varying your workout is also important in helping to prevent injuries and keeping your body structurally balanced, besides beating boredom.

Of course, there is room for running in healthy lifestyles. But I have yet to jog over to that point of view.