Can too much running kill you? The Wall Street Journal examines this and Runners World comments.

Can too much running kill you? The Wall Street Journal examines this and Runners World comments

A Wall Street Journal article that is based on a new article in the Journal Heart raises the question of whether running, if overdone can kill you.

After years of taking care of elite runners, working the NY Marathon (which has rarely had a fatality), I would wonder if this academic exercise fits with real world realities. In the real world, many runners are out in all sorts of weather exploring the limits of their bodies tolerance while becoming faster, or running longer distances. Most will say they feel great after a run and other than one incident where a track athlete died at one of the NJ USATF track meets (he was 55 and was enjoying his sport when he died), there has never been an incident causing death from running.

There are risk factors in everything we do, from running, walking in the street, swimming, going on a roller coaster or even boarding a plane. Should we as a society worry when the benefits of running for most people clearly outweigh the risks. Many runners also have sedentary jobs so running gives them the movement they need. Current studies show too much sitting will shorten our lives as well. The real truth is that we all are here for a while, and eventually, something will happen and as in the Lion King, and the ideal of the great circle of life, the older generation makes way for the younger generation and our bodies will eventually succumb to something.

If that is the case, and really we have less control over when we meet our end than most doctors or drug companies will freely admit, why not just live, take some risk, go on vacations, have fun and if you want… run.
Read the article here

The Too-Much-Running Myth Rises Again

Risks of an overdose are greatly exaggerated.

Alex Hutchinson


November 28, 2012

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but… RUNNING TOO MUCH COULD KILL YOU!!! That’s the message of a Wall Street Journal article that’s making the rounds this week, based on a forthcoming editorial in the journal Heart. Sound familiar? It should, because someone writes an article with this message every few months, and it invariably rockets around the cybersphere powered by schadenfreude.

In this case, it should sound extra-familiar, because the Heart editorial is co-written by some of the same team that wrote “Cardiovascular damage resulting from chronic excessive endurance exercise” in July, and “Potential adverse cardiovascular effects from excessive endurance exercise” in June, not to mention last year’s “Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.” As cardiologist Paul Thompson says in the WSJ piece, “The guys advancing the hypothesis that you can get too much exercise are manipulating the data… They have an agenda.”

Of course, I have an agenda too. I like running, and that inevitably colors my perspective. I posted my thoughts on this topic in detail earlier this year, during one of the earlier iterations of this same debate (sparked by essentially the same article by James O’Keefe et al. in a different journal). As I said then, there’s no doubt whatsoever that the health benefits of aerobic exercise eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. Where is that point? No one really knows, but my personal feeling is that if you’re running more than an hour a day, you’re doing it for reasons other than optimizing health. Which is fine. But crucially, that doesn’t mean you’re hurting your health by running an hour a day, and when people start making suggestions like that, I agree with Thompson that they’re twisting the data. Two examples:

(1) One of the major pieces of evidence the group cites is a study that was presented at a conference over the summer. The WSJ description:

In a study involving 52,600 people followed for three decades, the runners in the group had a 19% lower death rate than nonrunners, according to the Heart editorial. But among the running cohort, those who ran a lot—more than 20 to 25 miles a week—lost that mortality advantage.

But here, from the actual abstract, is the part they never mention:

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