We're dead certain that running is good for you
ALL THAT AEROBIC exercise helps build a strong heart and general well-being. But, there’s a qualifier: too much running can be dangerous.
But how do we know if we’re running too much? At the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in San Francisco earlier this year, they tried to answer that question. Their study of 14,000 runners and 38,000 non-runners between 1971 and 2002 yielded some fascinating results.
First, the good news:
* Runners on average had a 19 per cent lower risk of death during the study period than the non-runners.
* The runners with the lowest death rate were those who ran less than 20 miles a week, with two to five days of running at a pace of between 8:35 minutes per mile. and 10:00 minutes per mile.
* Running with this kind of distance and speed were linked to a lower risk of all causes of mortality.
Now, the bad news:
* Runners who ran more, or at a faster pace, had higher death rates.
A breakdown of the study found “hazard ratios” associated with different kids of running. The lower the hazard ratio, the better. A finding of .80, for example, means that this runner was 20 per cent less likely to die during the study period than a non-runner. This breakdown showed:
* In terms of distance, a runner who ran between 10 and 20 miles in a week had a hazard ratio of about 0.75. However, a runner clocking up 25 miles or more had a hazard ratio of 0.95.
* It was a similar story with pace. Runners who ran 8.35 per mile had a hazard ratio of 0.73. But a runner giving it socks at 7.30 per mile or more had a hazard ratio of 0.93.
If you fall into the latter category, who appear to be at a higher risk, don’t fret. The study is very broad and doesn’t drill down too far into whether deaths could credibly be linked to running. At the end of the day, everyone is different. Some are built for running at these paces and distances, some less so. So, what’s the overall lesson from all this?
I like to think of the advice of my grandad: “Everything in moderation”. It’s a philosophy we can apply to running, and much, much more.
And one last thing: if you’re an older runner and worried about whether your running is doing more harm than good: this research by experts at the Stanford University School of Medicine followed a group of 500 older runners aged 60-plus over the course of 20 years.
It found these older runners had fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life and were half as likely as aging non-runners to die early deaths.
“The study has a very pro-exercise message,” said James Fries, MD, an emeritus professor of medicine at the medical school and the study’s senior author. “If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise.”
COMPETITION Could your story go the distance?
TELL US your most embarrassing running story in 200 words or less and you could win a stay in Sligo’s Radisson Blu hotel, and two race entries to the Sligo Half Marathon on September 15th.
Shorts around your ankles? Taking a wrong turn straight into a ditch? Tell us where it all went hilariously wrong for you at irishtimes.com/bodyandsole or to email@example.com.
Closing date : Wednesday 22nd August
For more info on the race: sligocitymarathon.com