Running could actually be your fountain of youth, so grab your shoes and get moving.
RUNNING is not an activity that everyone enjoys, but based on the number of runs being organised lately, it’s on the increase, which augurs well for our sideways-expanding population.
But, whether the participants are seasoned runners or new converts cannot be ascertained as there is no data available. The seasoned runners are the ones who finish the race running, while many of the new converts end up walking to the finishing line.
Still, the fact that we are moving is a step towards a healthier nation. You either run for fun, for the challenge, or for the fellowship.
Among other benefits, running helps strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness, shed weight, bust stress and increase confidence.
In a May 2013 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, it was found that rats and mice derived antidepressant-like effects from running on a wheel, and researchers concluded that physical activity was an effective alternative to treating depression.
Simply put, running is convenient. You don’t need any money or elaborate gear, except for a pair of good shoes (unless you prefer to run barefoot), and good weather.
And, running could actually be your fountain of youth.
According to a study published in the journal Plos One last November, elderly people who run show similar fitness levels to 20-year-olds.
Researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Humboldt State University in California, United States, measured how regular walking versus running affected locomotion in older adults. They picked 30 healthy older volunteer adults around age 69, who either walked or ran regularly for exercise.
The participants were asked to walk on a treadmill at the speeds 1.6 mph, 2.8 mph, and 3.9 mph, while their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production were measured.
People who were runners had similar energy intake to a group of young adults in their 20s from a prior study. However, those elderly men and women who regularly walked did not see that same benefit, and expended up to 22% more energy than the younger crowd.
While ageing has been associated with reduced muscular efficiency, runners definitely have increased muscle activation and efficiency, compared to walkers.
Two veterans can attest to this.
Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi and Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur Athletics Association (FTKLAA) secretary Datuk S. Vegiyathuman have been avid runners their whole lives.
Now in their 70s, they don’t compete anymore but continue to jog to keep fit.
In the 1950s, Vegiyathuman was a cross-country runner in Penang.
“When I start running, I don’t stop! They used to call me the locomotive,” he says, laughing.
“When I got older and couldn’t run as fast, I got into organising running events. Back then, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) encouraged us to organise fun runs in the park. There was no fee involved.
“Eventually, these runs became more organised, the paths were calculated, prizes were introduced, sponsors got involved, chips were used for measuring time... it became competitive, and that marked the start of all our problems! The market has been spoilt due to the introduction of all these incentives. Participating in runs has also become more expensive.”
As the man behind the official sanctioning of each run, Vegiyathuman puts in months of meticulous planning.
“Before, we used to do 40 runs a year, with part of the intention to identify and develop talent. Now, the event managers have taken over the organisation and they only consult us. Organising events has become a big, lucrative industry,” he comments.
Adds Sieh, “Runs are becoming so commercialised; everyone is looking for self-gratification. You see one being held every weekend. You wonder whether the industry is supporting sports or is sports supporting the industry. A basic run is very cheap and you don’t need all these extra ‘side shows’ that are being put up.”
Vegiyathuman and Sieh are part of an ambitious Move Malaysia plan to keep us moving for better health and to fight obesity.
Under the programme, which was mooted by OCM two years ago with a US$250,000 (RM800,000) grant from Coca Cola International, 85 doctors and 105 fitness trainers have been trained thus far to give exercise prescription to individuals.
“Our challenge is how to monitor whether people are consulting these doctors and trainers. Malaysians are living longer as medical care improves. My daughter is disabled, so I have to take her to the hospital often. I am shocked to see so many 50 and 60-year-olds in wheelchairs. I’m lucky as I’ve kept myself fit all this time,” says Sieh, an ardent hasher who walks all over town to attend meetings instead of using his car.
The next run is coming up next weekend and the two men are pretty excited. To celebrate City Day, Vegiyathuman and his team at FTKLAA have been busy reviving the City Day Run (now called AmBank Kuala Lumpur Run), to be held on Feb 8 at Padang Merbok, Kuala Lumpur.
It was the first run organised in KL in 1984, but was halted in 2008 when it was overshadowed by bigger international marathons.
“We realise that we need a city event to celebrate City Day, so we have reintroduced it. It’s a sanctioned event and our main objective is to identify talent. We also felt it was appropriate as it promoted Kuala Lumpur as a sporting destination,” he says.
Participants in the men’s open, women’s open and men’s junior veteran will have to run 10km, while those taking part in the men’s senior veteran, women’s veteran, men’s junior and women’s junior have to complete 7km. The eighth category will be for families.
Vegiyathuman says the AmBank Kuala Lumpur Run is only for Malaysians and foreigners with PR status.
Online registration is closed, but walk-in registration is still open till tomorrow. For details, visit www.ftaaa.org.my or call 03-2715 2843.