The longer the running distance, the more health benefits? Medical and sports experts are ready to argue with this.
If it comes to that, running is the most natural form of physical activity, as our family has been running since the days of the caveman. Running is beneficial for health and longevity, and there is no lack of evidence to support this fact. One of the most popular forms of aerobic exercise, hundreds of scientific papers have shown links between cardio training and health benefits, from lowering cancer risk to improving mental performance.
The benefits of running: the opinion of science
A 2015 study found that even light jogging – five to ten minutes a day at a slow pace – reduced overall mortality by 28%, and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease decreased even more. “On average, runners live three years longer when compared to those who don’t,” says study author Dak-Chul Lee, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Iowa. Long distance runners who train for six years or more get the most benefit in terms of longevity, Lee adds.
But faster and longer is not always healthier.
Along with the rise in popularity of running, the number of distance runners has increased. More people are taking part in marathons today than ever before, and some amateurs even run super marathons. In this regard, the experts tackled the question of how the run distance affects the indicators of health, mortality and longevity.
“Faster and longer is not the same as healthier”.
It’s one thing to build a racing car that will win the Indianapolis 500 Miles, and it is quite another task to make a car that can travel the same 500 miles at normal speed, O’Keeffe says. A similar principle applies to running. It’s one thing to train for maximum speed and endurance, and quite another to run for maximum longevity. “Intense endurance training may be less beneficial to health and longevity than moderate exercise,” he adds.
Does mileage matter?
O’Keeffe was once a fanatical runner himself, but he switched to other activities (including walking) when his experiment highlighted a link between hard running training and health problems. In one study, O’Keefe found that moderate running mileage is a powerful weapon against illness and death, while over-training negates the benefits of running. In the group of “hardy” runners – people who run at speeds above 12 km / h and more than four hours a week – the mortality rate is the same as in the group of participants professing a sedentary lifestyle. This was the result of the experiment.
Some scientists dispute the findings. In one review of the study, Martin Burtscher, M.D. from the Austrian Institute of Sports Medicine in Innsbruck, notes that the data was collected from the participants’ words, and this can significantly distort the results. Burtscher says there is no conclusive evidence that people can “overdo” with running and cites another study that found no worsening of mortality rates among people who practice very intense exercise.
But the study cited by Burtscher tried to establish a link between mortality and physical activity, not running. If you delve into more specific scientific papers devoted to running, you can find a lot of evidence that running can increase the risk of certain diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases.
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When running becomes a threat
The link between intense long-term endurance exercise and atrial fibrillation – an abnormal heart rhythm that increases the risk of heart failure and heart attack – is “a recognized fact in the scientific community,” says Edouard Gauche, MD, who studies heart disease at the University Hospital of Barcelona. …
While running is beneficial even in small doses, there is a certain risk associated with heavy endurance training. Ghosh emphasizes that it is still unclear how exercise can cause or contribute to the development of heart disease. One popular theory is that high volume endurance training “remodels” the heart muscle in a way that increases the risk of dysfunction. But Ghosh says the theory is up for debate. “There is no clear threshold beyond which we can confidently state that an athlete is at increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation,” he adds.
There is evidence that a genetic predisposition to atrial fibrillation or other pathology of the cardiovascular system makes intense running especially dangerous. For people with latent heart disease, marathon running is associated with a small but measurable risk of sudden cardiac death.
To run or not?
Conclusions, at least for the current date, may be as follows. Overall, running is good for your health, even light jogging, but hard training can be a potential threat. When does “a lot” become “too much”? The issue is actively discussed – it depends on age, DNA, the state of the cardiovascular system and many other factors. “In my opinion, the studies that have been conducted show that there is a wide range of training duration and frequency in which the health benefits of running are undeniable,” says Angelica Brelentin, Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, who with Dr. Lee studied the benefits of running in terms of duration. life.
Her experiment shows that the ceiling is 4.5 hours of running per week if a person runs six days out of seven. Brelentin’s findings are in line with another study, which found that 40 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise per day is likely the upper limit for people seeking the maximum health benefits from running.
“Run no more than 4.5 hours a week or no more than 50 kilometers.”
Of course, some experts disagree. If you’re one of those running a marathon to overcome yourself, a sense of community, or a pure love of the sport, you can comfort your soul that the conclusions are far from definitive. But if you’re only winding kilometers to improve your health, recent research suggests that shortening your running distance may be more beneficial than increasing it.