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Exercise: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Looks like the answer could be "yes!" You've heard the adages, "nothing is 100% good, and nothing is 100% bad" and "it's the dose that makes the poison."

Well, here is some evidence that those who've taken the recommendation for exercise to the extreme may be doing some harm.

A new study abstract presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's 2012 Annual Meeting suggests that running more than 20 miles (32 km) per week may increase your risk of all-cause mortality (death).

The hypothesis of the study was that at some "dose" of running, benefits would level off. However, the fact that the plateau was reached at such a low level (relatively) was surprising. However, even more surprising was the fact that it didn't level off but actually went the other way.

It looks like you get the health benefits at relatively low, modest amounts. Reaching for super-high amounts of running is certainly not going to give more benefit, and it actually appears from the new data that you could be getting less benefit.

Overall, this study showed running was associated with a 19% lower risk of all-cause mortality when compared with non-runners. As noted, however, the researchers saw a U-shaped curve, with faster paces, longer distances, and increasing frequency suggesting a diminishing mortality benefit.

Regarding pace, individuals who ran 6 mph (9.65 km/h) and 7 mph (11.26 km/h) had a significant 21% and 27% lower risk of all-cause mortality, respectively--whereas those who ran 8 mph (12.87 km/h) or more, only received a statistically non-significant 7% reduction (meaning, statistically, there's no difference between a runner and a couch potato).

Running up to 20 miles (32 km) per week was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death, with the largest benefit observed in those who ran between 10-15 miles (16-24 km) weekly. There was a non-significant 10% and 5% reduction in all-cause mortality for those who ran 20-25 miles (32-40 km) and more than 25 miles (40 km) per week, respectively .

Similarly, the mortality benefit was observed in individuals who ran 2-5 days per week, but the benefit began turning in the other direction when subjects ran 6-7 days per week. At six and seven days, the reduction in all-cause mortality was not statistically significant.

Source: Running and all-cause mortality risk--is more better?

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  1. According to this study then, the most benefit will be:
    a speed of 10 km/h
    4 runs/week
    20 km weekly total (or 5 km/run)
    and if running at 10 km/h each run should last only 30 minutes

    1. Yes, it seems so! When it's broken down like this, it seems rather manageable! I guess this means I no longer have any excuses.
      ...wait, can I blame inclement weather? :)

  2. Hello Lee,
    Jude will love this one, what about playing too much hockey?


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