With an increasing number of running events across the territory, it's easy to see that running has become one of the most popular ways to exercise in Hong Kong.

This convenient fitness activity can greatly improve heart health as well as lung capacity. It may look simple, but there are many interesting facts about running. You may also be interested to know the key to healthy running.

Dr Lobo Louie, Associate Professor of Department of Physical Education, pointed out that running has a range of health benefits because different muscle groups, especially those lower body muscles, are used. He said everyone was born to run, but when compared to other four-legged land animals such as leopards, lions and antelopes, humans are not natural-born sprinters!

"Human feet are not 'built' for gripping floor, they are also not good for pushing off the ground and accelerating. However, when it comes to long-distance running, humans can outrun almost any animal. In fact, our toes, gluteus maximus (which is the main extensor muscle of the hip and regarded as one of the strongest muscles in the human body) and arm swing during movement can enhance body balance and stability. What's more, humans can walk 20 to 30 km (about a five-hour walk) without replenishing energy supply." Humans are more suited for long-distance walking than running. In fact, "shopping and walking" has recently been promoted in various countries, encouraging citizens to improve their health by increasing physical activity while shopping.

We get constant reminders that the "right amount" of exercise can improve health and longevity but what exactly is that elusive amount? Is there a scientific formula to calculate how much exercise one needs to do in order to build and maintain health?

Dr Louie explained that there is no specific magic formula since everyone has different workout goals. The amount should be determined by a person's health condition, fitness level along with heart and lung strength as well as other environmental factors. A summary from American universities looking at the relation between running and mortality found that running too little or too much does not lower the risk of death. However, running the "right amount" reduced a healthy adult’s risk of death by 20%. For those who wish to maintain health, the study recommends running at a moderate speed, in other words the person can talk without difficulty while running, two to five times and not more than 32 km a week. According to the study, this is the best way to maintain health with a low risk of injury.