Marathon Runner Oleksandr Skorokhod Talks About the Benefits of Sports and Proper Approach to Trainings
Is running as useful to our body as it is described? How to begin exercises properly and continue them? Is heavy physical activity harmful to vegetarians? These issues are revealed by Oleksandr Skorokhod, a young Ukrainian biologist, trail runner, marathon runner and ultra-runner.
The expert keeps a blog dedicated to a healthy lifestyle, providing accessible and entertaining information. Oleksandr is a research worker at the Department of signaling cell systems at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. His lectures are quite popular at the Ukrainian Leadership Academy.
In an interview with Biohacking Conference Kyiv, Oleksandr shares his knowledge about the impact of physical exercises on health and proper training.
Interviewer: Biohacking Conference Kyiv (ВСК)
Respondent: Oleksandr Skorokhod (O.S.)
ВСК: Is sports as beneficial as it is described? Is it possible to stay young due to physical activities?
O.S.: Indeed. In 2017, the meta-analysis of studies involving more than 1.1 million people showed that runners could live on average three years longer. But it is just the tip of the iceberg. The primary role of sports is to enhance stress-resistance, improve brain activity, as well as stimulate the functioning of cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, hormone and immune systems. It means the prevention of many diseases, dementia and premature aging.
Analyzing the existence of long livers, we can see that in 99% of cases it is accompanied by physical activities in some form (sports, regular long walks, farming). That is why the World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercises and 75 minutes of intensive training per week. If we want to gain a long-term positive effect, this figure can be duplicated.
ВСК: What cellular changes occur in the human body during running?
O.S.: It depends on what type of tissues we will consider. For example, myofibril will produce more mitochondria as well as accumulate more creatine, glycogen and molecules generating energy for movement.
Red blood cells will obtain hemoglobin and better oxygen supply intensity while leucocytes will make a greater amount of protective antibodies. Nerve cells will synthetize such enjoyment neuromediators as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and endocannabinoids. They will also produce BDNF neurotrophin, a molecule protecting brain cells from premature aging.
ВСК: How should people who have never run start this activity?
O.S.: Running is a natural activity that we practice from childhood. Truly speaking, we do not have to put a lot of efforts to remember this. If you follow an active lifestyle (go in for fitness or other sports), you should begin with 5-10-minute gentle jogging at your own pace.
In case of a couch-potato lifestyle, people should be more careful. They can start walking at a pace comfortable for breathing and talking, especially when suffering from excess weight. You can initially walk within 10 minutes and then longer, gradually reaching half an hour. Afterwards, you can try to alternate between 2 minutes of walking and 1 minute of jogging. You should eventually run slowly within 20-30 minutes.
Besides, you should consult a physician regarding your desire to run in order to get certain tips if necessary.
ВСК: Many of us begin to run but give up soon. How to turn running into a habit?
O.S.: It is referred not only to running but also to any other physical activities. The reason can be obvious: people just do not like this kind of sports but start training because it is trendy, their neighbors run etc. Therefore, the first tip: choose your favorite type of aerobic activities (running, cycling, swimming, football and so on).
The second reason is also clear. You should occasionally make an effort to keep a certain activity in your life. Do not wait for inspiration or motivation. Create them on your own. Competition lovers will be motivated by awards and medals. Travelers can register and run a marathon in Paris, or prepare and swim the Bosporus. And so on and so forth depending on your interests. Relate them to sports in order not to quit.
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ВСК: What about vegetarians? Is animal protein essential for physical activities?
O.S.: Generally, it is not. There are a lot of vegetarians and even vegans among well-known ultra-runners and prominent athletes in various sports. However, such people should take care of receiving the required amount of protein. That’s not a big deal if you eat milk food and eggs. Vegans will have to find a proper combination of nuts and cereals to provide their body with protein.
I shifted to a vegetarian diet (with dairy products and eggs) in 2013. Since then, I have run dozens of marathons and seven ultra-marathons. I won, occupied top places in international competitions and took part in the trail running world championship. The vegetarian diet can be entirely balanced and full of protein.
ВСК: You have a blog. What should be said to deliver the importance of healthy living?
O.S.: I believe it is important to show people that their reality is just one of the available options. We frequently complain about the heavy workload, poor health and severe stress in the city, but that’s what we create on our own every day.
There is another scenario: you can wake up one hour earlier and run before work, seeing the sunrise; or go to work on a bike; or take a train on Friday and spend a weekend in the mountains, in the open air.
A healthy lifestyle blog should demonstrate that this way of living is awesome and not complicated.
ВСК: Could you recommend any exercises for office workers that can be made at the workplace?
O.S.: The first exercise: take regular breaks – 5-10 minutes every hour. Use them to move, go along the office, go upstairs/downstairs, or go outside. It is especially referred to a lunch break.
You should also relax your eyes: close them and make slow circular, right-left and diagonal movements. Stretch your neck: fluent up-down, right-left and rotatory head movements. Leg exercises: rise on your toes and smoothly come down on the heels.
You can do more activities in case of necessary conditions (a sports room/area nearby).
ВСК: What will you talk about at Biohacking Conference Kyiv?
O.S.: I will explain what processes regulate signaling cellular pathways, what physical exercises affect longevity and how to train correctly.
Oleksandr Skorokhod will speak at Biohacking Conference Kyiv on March 26. His presentation is titled ‘Signaling cellular pathways or how to run a 100 years-long marathon?’.