Pitfalls of Too Much Jogging
Going out for a jog is certainly a great choice of activity. It provides a good cardiovascular workout, tones the legs, burns plenty of calories, and releases the endorphins that leave you happy and feeling good when you're done. And if a little jogging a couple of times a week at a moderate intensity is good, wouldn't it stand to reason that a lot of more intense jogging would be better? Probably not, according to new research that suggests more strenuous and frequent jogging may be as harmful as getting no exercise whatsoever.
The study, which was conducted at Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, found that there are benefits to jogging regularly, but more vigorous training is as risky to health as a sedentary lifestyle.1 The subjects were 1,098 healthy Danish men and women who enjoyed jogging and another 413 healthy adults who did not jog and were mainly sedentary. All of the participants answered surveys throughout the 12-year research period about their exercise habits and fitness. There were specific questions about how often they went jogging, the duration of their jogs, the intensity level of a typical jog, and any medical issues that came up.
The scientists compiled the data, and it showed that those individuals who went jogging three times a week for a maximum of two-and-a-half hours in total had a considerably lower risk of death during the study period than either their peers who jogged more or those who were inactive. The pace of the activity was also found to be important, and maintaining a steady five miles per hour throughout the jog was considered ideal. In fact, the participants who were deemed "strenuous" joggers, meaning their workouts were more frequent, longer, or at a higher intensity, had a greater risk of death than the non-joggers.
We do have to consider the limits of the study, though. Even though more than 1,500 volunteers were included in the population sample, only 36 of them fell into the category of "strenuous" joggers. And just two of the strenuous joggers died over the course of the study, which leaves open the possibility that the remainder of them were relatively healthy.
On the flip side, however, the findings do expand on earlier research that suggested some more intense forms of exercise might do us more harm than good. For instance, a 2013 study at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden discovered that athletes who took part in a 56-mile cross country ski marathon had a higher risk of cardiac difficulties compared to non-competitors.2 Why would it be that something potentially so helpful to the body can turn problematic if taken to more of an extreme?
The answer may simply lie in way the body works. After all, we all know that we need a certain amount of calories to survive, but too many and we're fighting off obesity. Exercise may work in a similar manner, wherein it is vitally important to get some activity every day, but too much can place a lot of wear and tear on the joints and muscles. It also increases production of free radicals and stresses the cardiovascular system. For the majority of us, moderate exercise is the key to fitness, but for some people, despite the recent study, strenuous exercise may be beneficial too. A 2014 study at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that middle-aged men who are recreational runners appear to derive cardiovascular benefits from the intensive type of training needed to physically prepare for a marathon.3
Ultimately, the point is not to use the current study's conclusions as a good excuse to throw away your running shoes. Instead, remember that aerobic exercise is just one component in a comprehensive workout routine. While it is essential to make sure you are doing some form of cardio, it does not have to mean jogging or running every day. You can mix it up and jog a few times a week, alternating with walking, swimming, biking, or another activity that gets your heart rate up. Even better, incorporate interval training. But don't forget to include strength training and flexibility exercises too. You need it all. Performed daily, these activities together will make up a well-rounded workout that keeps your weight in check and every part of your body functioning optimally…as long as you don't overdo it.
- 1. "Training very hard 'as bad as no exercise at all'." BBC News. 6 February 2015. Accessed 8 February 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-31095384
- 2. Andersen, Kasper; et al. "Risk of arrhythmias in 52,755 long-distance cross-country skiers: a cohort study." European Heart Journal. 11 June 2013. Accessed 9 February 2015. http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/06/10/eurheartj.eht188.full
- 3. "Marathon training could help the heart." EurekAlert. 27 March 2014. Accessed 9 February 2015. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-03/acoc-mtc032614.php