running: less is more?

Hey all! Hope your holiday weekend was great. Mine had some barbecuing, some pool time, some clients/teaching, and…some summer vacation planning! We are soooo looking forward to getting away for a week soon.

Anyway, on my internet travels I found a recent study that I thought was worth highlighting for you guys. I know a lot of you enjoy running, and this study suggests the power of running on…wait for it…mortality. As in living versus dying. Yikes.

cool-down, why is a cool-down important, importance of a cool-down, runningThis study was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine (where I got my personal trainer certification!) 2012 Annual Meeting. The study conductors took 52,000 men and women participating in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) and analyzed their fitness behavior. All participants were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, electrocardiograph abnormalities, and diabetes. Each person filled out a questionnaire of their fitness habits (running, spinning, strength training, etc.) and each person was followed for 15 years. 27% of participants reported running as their form of exercise.

For more of the specific, hard facts, check out the study here.

Sooo, it turns out that the runners had a 19% less risk of mortality compared to those who didn’t run. However, they found something interesting: mortality had a U-shaped curve when looking at faster paces, longer distances, and higher frequency.

What does this mean?! Here are some takeaways from the results:

  • Those with a pace of 6- and 7-miles per hour had 21 and 27% lower mortality risk, respectively; 8+ miles per hour had a small 7% lower mortality risk. Faster is not necessarily better.
  • Running up to 20 miles per week had a great mortality risk reduction; 20+ miles per week had a minimal mortality risk reduction. The optimal distance per week? 10 to 15 total miles.
  • Running 2 to 5 days per week had the highest mortality risk reduction; anything above 5 days per week proved to be less beneficial for mortality risk. Throw in a rest day or two.

So basically, Everything. In. Moderation. We hear it all the time.

I honestly appreciate this study, as I always see long-distance runners dealing with injury and wear and tear and wonder if they might be taking a serious toll on their body. I’d never take it so far as to think they’re playing with their mortality (how intense!), but I have heard about the stress that super long distances can place on the cardiovascular system.

Do you find this study to be controversial? Any of you runners a little bit offended by these conclusions? What do you guys think???