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Biology, Sport, Uncategorized

Running with your arms

As I have dealt with the gong show that has been my wrist injury over the past 2.5+ years I have tried to stay active. One of the activities I have kept to some degree is running. But it has been amazing to me how much my running has been affected by my arm and how much my arm is affected by my running.

I tend to hold the muscles in my left arm pretty tight in order to prevent it from being jarred by the running action. Does this affect my running itself?
Arellano and Kram (2014) studied what happened when they had people run with their hands behind their back, across their chest, and on top of their heads. They found that it takes significantly more energy to run without swinging your arms, with hands on your head being the most costly. In addition, when you can’t swing your arms your body tries to compensate by rotating. This is because your arms help to counterbalance your body as you run, remove the arm swing and something else needs to move to perform that function.

I was somewhat surprised that I couldn’t find any research that examined how arm injury or deformation affects running. It seems like running is so common that there shouldn’t be much left to study. I think the lack of more specific research is potentially reflective of two factors. First, many people still struggle to stay active through injury, so perhaps there just aren’t enough people running with arm injuries. Second, we have not always prioritized research of individuals who are different than standard. I can only hope that the fact that the Paralympic sports at the 2018 Commonwealth Games were held at the same time as the “regular stream” events is a sign that we are going in the right direction and that perhaps we will get more related research in the future.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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