Posted by Dave on May 24, 2013 | 3 Comments
Just a quick post to note this article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal today.
Look familiar? It ought to. The same author wrote this article last year.
Both articles basically say the same thing, and quote the same authorities, citing the same research. The suggestion is that running too much is bad for your health. A moderate amount of running might be helpful, but running more than, say, 30 miles a week, is too much and is actually harmful.
What bugs me about today’s article in particular is the suggestion that “new research” is telling us these things. There is no new research. There is the same old research. And Alex Hutchinson responded quite well to that research when the same author reported on it in the Wall Street Journal last year:
But here, from the actual abstract, is the part they never mention:
Cox regression was used to quantify the association between running and mortality after adjusting for baseline age, sex, examination year, body mass index, current smoking, heavy alcohol drinking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, parental CVD, and levels of other physical activities.
What this means is that they used statistical methods to effectively “equalize” everyone’s weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on. But this is absurd when you think about it. Why do we think running is good for health? In part because it plays a role in reducing weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on (for more details on how this distorts the results, including evidence from other studies on how these statistical tricks hide real health benefits from much higher amounts of running, see my earlier blog entry). They’re effectively saying, “If we ignore the known health benefits of greater amounts of aerobic exercise, then greater amounts of aerobic exercise don’t have any health benefits.”
Unsurprisingly, the new article in today’s Wall Street Journal has generated hundreds of comments. What frustrates me is that the Journal is playing on the fact that millions of runners will be interested in this sort of research and drawn to the article thinking that something new is being reported. In fact there is no new research. Indeed, the sort of research that could actually generate authoritative results will probably never be conducted, because it would be very difficult indeed to do a long-term experimental study on this phenomenon. We’ll probably never know for sure whether running, say, 50 miles a week, is more or less harmful than running 20 miles a week. We’ll probably also never see the Wall Street Journal report on that.