The aim of this study was to characterise lifestyle and training habits of a large cohort of Australian recreational runners. Understanding the health benefits of recreational running and differentiating between the habits of males and females may allow for the development of gender-specific messaging for promoting recreational running as a form of physical activity.
An online questionnaire was used to collect data from 4720 Australian recreational runners. Data on physical, lifestyle and training characteristics of male and female subgroups were compared using chi-square tests. Multiple logistic regression method was used to assess the effect of running experience on the reported clinically significant weight loss.
The study cohort was 54.1% female and 45.9% male. Smoking was uncommon among surveyed runners. The most typical weekly running distance in the cohort was 20-40 km, usually distributed by 2-5 running sessions. Significantly more males than females reported running over 40 km per week (29.9% vs 18.9%, P < .001) and running at least six sessions per week (11.5% vs 6.7%, P < .001). The majority (72.9%) of runners had normal BMI, and the cohort reported a lower overweight/obesity rate than the Australian population. The logistic regression model indicated that commencing running may lead to a clinically significant weight loss irrespectively of sex, participation in other sports and injury history.
Recreational running was associated with beneficial health outcomes. Commencement of running is associated with weight loss, and regular running supports healthy weight maintenance. Male and female runners had different running preferences which should be taken into account for physical activity promotion.
Captured health outcomes associated with running and described sex differences in training patterns may assist in development of physical activity promotion programmes involving recreational running, particularly targeting weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.