Women are drawn to running because it is a natural way to relieve stress, does not require a gym membership and is an effective weight control method. According to the Los Angeles Times, approximately 60% of half-marathon finishers in 2012 were female. In the UK, statistics published by Sports England show that there’s a steady increase in women runners, even doubling in number between annual surveys. While running is an excellent way for women to stay healthy and trim, there are some female-specific health concerns that all women must keep in mind.
Female Hormones and Pregnancy
Most female runners will never train hard enough to worry about amenorrhea. This is a condition where a woman’s menstrual cycle stops functioning. Female runners who push their bodies to run marathons and even longer distances often experience this condition as a result of internal changes caused by their running routines.
Even women who run shorter distances find that taking birth control results in reduced ability to perform. Women of child-bearing age may struggle to conceive if their activity levels interfere with their hormone levels and the functioning of their menstrual cycles.
Simple Protection Tips
Obviously, women have every right to run as men, but they should take a few extra precautions to make sure their bodies are protected from common running injuries and complications particular to the female body.
1. Every woman should have adequate health insurance coverage. Women need access to a primary care provider as well as a gynecologist. Women who run may also need coverage that allows them to see a physical therapist or other specialist if injuries are sustained.
2. Female runners must eat a well-balanced diet without restricting calories drastically. Amenorrhea is common in women who consume too few calories on a regular basis. Runners burn calories at an accelerated rate. They need to fuel their bodies carefully to adequately sustain their high activity level.
3. Women should follow their menstrual cycles on a calendar so that they know immediately if they start to skip some months. A missed cycle here and there may serve as an early signal that a woman needs to talk to a doctor about her lifestyle. Even if a cycle is missed due to pregnancy or another issue, it is important to see a doctor right away.
While running is healthy for all women, it also places a higher demand on a woman for proper medical care. This is especially true for women who want to bear children while pursuing aggressive running goals.