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Running Boosts Work Performance: So How Can You Support Your Staff That Run?

It’s easy to think of your employee’s extracurricular activities as just that – something that is entirely independent from their 9-5. But as an employer, you may find it interesting to learn that those employees that engage in regular exercise like running may actually be supporting their work performance in more ways than you know.

Studies have shown that aerobic exercise like running can improve a person’s long-term memory as well as their executive function, which includes their ability to focus, solve problems, and even regulate their emotions, while reducing the need for a 3pm ‘pick me up’ to help keep energy levels sustained. Running is also fantastic for releasing stress, where the workplace often plays a role.

With all the mental benefits of running also come the natural physical downsides – such as the great demand and stress on the body. When a person runs, they take on forces of approximately 250% of their body weight. There’s also a greater demand for balance with only one foot ever in contact with the ground at any time, with many muscles working hard to keep a runner moving through each stride with power, control and stability. And the hard work doesn’t stop with your feet or legs – the impact of running moves up the joints of the body to the pelvis, chest, spine, arms, shoulders and head, too. 

With all these forces comes the natural risk of injury. So what are the injury risks for runners and how can you support your employees in best avoiding these injuries without necessarily incurring additional costs to your business or organisation? Let’s take a look. 

Ankle Injuries Among Runners

Ankles hold important roles during running, including keeping a person steadily propelling through every step, minimising the impact forces from running, and supporting the Achilles tendon in holding and storing energy when the foot hits the ground so the runner can ‘spring’ into their next step. In order to keep ankles moving efficiently, it’s important to have good, unrestricted movement at the joint as it allows less shock to be taken by the legs when hitting the ground, something that can otherwise take a big toll and tire the muscles in the legs.

Common ankle injuries in running

  • Ankle sprains: a sprain occurs when you unexpectedly roll onto the outside (most commonly) or inside of your ankle, injuring the ligaments that support and stabilise the ankle joint.
  • Stress fractures: stress fractures occur when micro-cracks develop and progressively worsen in a bone of the ankle joint. The cause is the high impact forces from the action of running.
  • Achilles tendinopathy: the Achilles tendon is the large, cord-like tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg, past the ankle, and inserts into the back of the heel bone. When the Achilles tendon is overused or overloaded past the point that it can safely handle, which may arise due to weak or unsteady ankles, the tendon can become damaged or inflamed.

Knee Injuries Among Runners

When a foot hits the ground, the flexion in the knee helps absorb a person’s body weight – a key function in helping prevent a running injury. This shock absorbing quality is paired with the knee’s mechanical function that works with the rest of the lower limbs to efficiently propel a runner forwards.

The muscles that play an essential role in supporting the knee include the quadriceps that control knee extension, the hamstrings for knee flexion, and the iliotibial band that supports leg stability and that pairs with the hip muscles and glutes to resist twisting movements around the knee joint.

Common knee injuries in running

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome: otherwise known as runner’s knee because of its higher prevalence in runners, patellofemoral pain syndrome describes pain at the front of your kneecap that develops during or after running.
  • Patellar tendinitis: patellar tendinitis describes the inflammation of your patellar tendon which crosses across the front of the knee, connecting the kneecap (patella) to the shin bone below. This condition is also nicknamed jumper’s knee because repeated jumping activities can aggravate the tendon, though it also occurs in running, too.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome: the iliotibial band is a tendon that runs from your hip and down to your knee. When the tendon gets irritated or damaged from repetitively rubbing against the outside of the knee joint during running, you’ll experience pain on your outer knee which can be recreated by bending and straightening the knee.

Shoulder Injuries Among Runners

While the shoulders aren’t typically thought of when discussing running, the muscles around the shoulders including the rotator cuff affect the upper body stability, arm swing, and overall running form, all of which are important for efficient running and injury prevention.

Common shoulder problems or injuries in running

    • Rotator cuff injury: a rotator cuff injury is the most common cause of shoulder pain that we see from running. It causes sharp pain near your shoulder blade, and can make it difficult for you to sleep on your side or reach things above you. Many rotator cuff injuries are related to your running form.
    • Trapezius muscle strain: Strained trapezius muscles, which are the muscles that go from the base of your knee to your shoulders, are usually caused by excess tension over time to the muscles, often from keeping the muscles tightened during running (like when the shoulders are hunched – see below).
    • Hunched shoulders: while hunched shoulders are not an injury, they can be a problem because running with hunched shoulders can put excess stress on the chest and respiratory system, making it harder to breathe and therefore utilise oxygen, impacting your running performance. Additionally, your arms are more likely to swing in a crisscross (lateral) motion, wasting energy and impacting how your other upper body muscles are engaged and activated to help control this movement.

Running Has A Notable Injury Risk – So What Can Be Done To Prevent It?

As an employer, it may be easy to think that either nothing can be done on your end to help support your employees in preventing running injuries – or that their private health insurance has them covered. Unfortunately for many, this is not the case. 

Private health insurance plans contributed to by employers often come with many caveats and restrictions, as well as disqualifying many when their new injury is related to pre-existing injuries – something that many seasoned runners will already have. Moreover, for the times that private health insurance does offer support, it only kicks in after something has gone wrong – not prior to that as a form of preventative medicine. This means that your employees are unable to be supported in seeing the right practitioners that will assist them in helping prevent injury, especially during the current financial climate where many families feel their finances are becoming strained with increasing interest rates and a looming recession.

One way that many employers are choosing to better support the needs of their physically active workforce without any additional expenses to the business is by switching their private insurance contributions to employer paid health contributions directly into their employee’s personal digital health wallet.

Digital Health Wallet

Having a digital health wallet with funds that can only be used on health and medical services and products enables your employees to meet their various needs – whether that’s recovering from injuries, working to prevent injuries before they occur, or even paying for supplements to support their running and health journeys. Unlike private health insurance, there are no exclusions, stand-down periods, limits for pre-existing conditions – the funds can be used on any health service registered with HealthNow.

You choose the dollar value and frequency you’d like to contribute – meaning you don’t need to exceed what you’re currently paying for private health co-payments if you don’t want to. HealthNow provides updates on your impact to help you measure the value of employer aid within your company. Your contributions are not subject to the Fringe Benefits Tax, are free for your employees to use (they even get a free $10 credit with their free sign-up), and HealthNow has an ever-growing trusted network of medical providers to keep your staff healthy and happy.

To get started, register your company’s interest via this contact form and a HealthNow team member will get back to you promptly.

 

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