Sunday, February 8, 2015

How To Interpret The Straits Times Article (040215) On Excessive Running

According to Danish researchers, running excessively is as good as not exercising. After reading the write up, I wanted to put this out earlier, but with a new born child, this had to wait. Well here are my thoughts on that article reported by Straits Times on 040215 on page A8.

The study looked at mortality rates in sedentary people and runners. What was widely reported was that those who ran more (and more vigorously) died at a greater rate during the study period than those who ran less. More dramatically put, running fast is as deadly as sitting on your couch.

Firstly the same data used in this study was already published back in 2012 in another journal. Seems like no new data? Well let's just republish the same data in another journal. Even the authors are similar as the previous study with the addition of James O'Keefe who has basically been on almost every single one of those "running will kill you" articles if you look him up. The media never checks this I guess and reports it as if it was brand new.

A few other things to consider. The sample size in the study (for runners) was relatively small, while sample sizes were large in the "less active" group. (If you looked at the data, only 2 people in the strenuous exercise group died).

Categorization of the volume of jogging was also arbitrary and the participants' running volume, frequency and pace were all self reported. Moreover, causes of death were not identified in the study, meaning some deaths were due to accidents possibly and not health related. With a smaller sample size, one death could affect the results a fair bit.

Other than the Straits Times, other news sites have also "broadened" the conclusion to suggest that more ambitious (or hardcore) running is of equal health benefit to being sedentary (or sitting on your couch). They failed to report that there are also lots of published data to show the many health benefits of higher mileage runners (although there are big benefits from very little running).

My take? This one study should not change your views or approach on running. There obviously is a point when running stops being beneficial and another point which will worsen your health. However, this differs for everyone and probably not at the low levels described in the article referenced below.


Schnohr P O'Keefe JH et al (2015). Dose Of Jogging And Long Term Mortality The Copenhagen City Heart Study. J Am Coll Cardio. 65(5) : 411-419. DOI: 10. 1016/j.jacc2014.11.023.

The Straits Times article

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