Running helps strengthen your heart and lungs and strengthens your immune system. One study also found that running for just 5-10 minutes per day can decrease your risk of developing heart disease and can increase your overall lifespan.
Running is good for your health. But, it can’t fix everything. If you’re a regular runner, it’s important to visit the doctor regularly and get some basic tests done.
These six health tests can help you ensure you’re in top running shape and catch any potential issues early on.
1. Electrolyte Panel
When you sweat a lot, it’s easy to deplete your body of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. An electrolyte panel can help you figure out whether or not you’re deficient in any of these important nutrients.
If you find yourself experiencing a lot of post- or intra-run muscle cramps, or if you deal with frequent headaches after running, an electrolyte panel is a good test to start with.
The good news is that, if you find out that you are deficient in sodium, potassium, or another electrolyte, you can likely solve the problem by simply adding more of these nutrients to your diet. Try adding some sea salt to your water or eat a potassium-rich food like a banana or an avocado.
2. Iron Test
The body needs iron to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. If you have low iron levels — and, by default, low hemoglobin levels — you may find your workout performance begins to suffer.
Many runners tend to have lower iron levels, so it’s important to get tested to make sure they aren’t too low.
It can be hard to spot an iron deficiency. The most common symptoms — fatigue, muscle soreness, joint pains, etc. — often look like the symptoms of a condition like the flu. If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, you may want to consider visiting your doctor and getting your iron levels tested. It’s better to be safe than sorry; after all, heart problems can occur if your iron levels stay low for too long.
3. Blood Pressure Test
Running can help reduce your risk of experiencing high blood pressure. But, it’s important not to assume that you’re fully shielded just because you run.
It’s especially important to have your blood pressure tested regularly if high levels run in your family, or if you take medications such as antidepressants or NSAIDs, which have been known to raise blood pressure levels.
If you visit the doctor and find that your blood pressure is high, you may want to invest in an at-home blood pressure monitor.
This device will make it easy for you to test your blood pressure regularly from the comfort of your own home. This helps you gain an accurate idea of how your health is without having to drive to the doctor’s office all the time.
4. Vitamin D Test
Low levels of vitamin D can lead to poor bone health, decreased immune system function, and increased levels of inflammation. If you live in a warm climate and spend a lot of time running outside, chances are you’re getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D.
If you’re not blessed with lots of warm weather and sunshine, though, or if you tend to spend most of your time running indoors, your levels may be low and you may experience symptoms like insomnia, muscle aches, and stress fractures.
5. Thyroid Test
If your thyroid is over- or underactive, your runs may suffer. Your thyroid hormones regulate the amount of energy that reaches all of your body’s cells, including your muscles cells.
If you have an underactive thyroid, you may feel weak and sluggish during your runs. If you have an overactive thyroid, you may feel anxious and jittery and have a higher-than-usual heart rate while running.
If your thyroid isn’t working properly, you may also experience additional symptoms like depression, fertility issues, weight gain, weight loss, or poor sleep.
6. Blood Sugar Test
Finally, it’s also important to have your blood sugar tested regularly.
Running (and other forms of exercise) can help you keep your blood sugar levels stable. But, if you have a family history of diabetes, regular blood sugar tests are a good idea.
This is especially important since the early symptoms of diabetes — excessive thirst, fatigue, etc. — often go unnoticed.