By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training, Tucson, Arizona
February 8, 2015
The world is a pretty distracting place, so it is pretty easy to lose sight of some interesting health news that would certainly affect us all. I mean let’s face, our media is trying to goad our country into another war, just so they can then complain about it when it ultimately gets too expensive and too many people are left with PTSD. Jennifer Lawrence posed with a boa constrictor--naked I might add to that. Bryan Williams, the once great and respected newscaster, has been revealed as a fraud. And of course, Bruce Jenner is...
transitioning into a woman. So amidst this world shattering smorgasbord of events that continue to haunt our everyday existence, let’s get back to reality for a moment. One thing we will always forget about and toss aside is the general health of our country, and things are kind of going south in a hand basket, literally and figuratively. Now the good thing is we have a wide array of social media platforms at our disposal, so finding newer and better ways to eat and educate ourselves in the realm of health and fitness is becoming quite the ferculum die. I’ve seen so many websites in regards to these subjects, and the wide ranging topics are quite glorious. You can learn to turn everyday, heavy and unhealthy foods into healthier alternatives (like Christa’s food renovation website http://recipereno.blogspot.com/2015/01/colorful-chikn-rice-casserole-from.html). You can learn to make unhealthy sweets into, well, somewhat healthier alternatives. And then you have the fitness side of the equation, where just about every crazy idea under the sun is presented for all the world to see. So it is always interesting to see people forget about the basic debates, the ones that often times hurt or help people and can create panics or delusions. Well, one article that sort of slipped through the cracks was quite an eye opener, and once again the media pulled no punches. In big letters across various news outlets. “Excessive Running Can Kill You!” “Excessive Running is Bad For Your Health.” And of course, my favorite out of all of them was “Fast Running is as Deadly as Sitting on a Couch!” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11385044/Fast-running-is-as-deadly-as-sitting-on-couch-scientists-find.html
Now, this is about the right time of year to start posting stories like this, merely because people’s New Year’s Resolutions are already running on fumes and running for 30 minutes on the treadmill is getting pretty old. Truthfully, I’m not surprised this sort of stuff comes out at this time of the year. If Superbowl Sunday hadn’t destroyed your healthy eating resolution, then this will probably beat down the other side of the coin. But in all seriousness, this was a study conducted by the Copenhagen City Heart Study, Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark and was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. So this was’t some study conducted by a meat head in a basement or shell company for a major dietary supplement. Anyway, this study followed over 5,000 people in Copenhagen, and identified almost 1,100 people that considered themselves joggers. The study also singled out over 400 people that were considered sedentary, but healthy. Over the course of 12 years, the study illustrated a much higher mortality rate for those that ran with a heavy frequency, at least three or more hours a week, than those who didn't run at all and maintained a healthy lifestyle. Now of course, the running community was in quite an uproar, and who can blame them? When you equate fast running to sitting on your rump all day, how can one stay silent? Fist of all, let’s start with the horrible analogy of swift running being comparable to sitting. I once commented about the “new” problem of people being too sedentary in addition to being office workers. Due to the new cubicle lifestyle of the modern day workforce, people are becoming more unhealthy due to the lack of movement and the sedentary work life. Since there is a severe lack of movement based worked, a la manufacturing and what not, this level of poor health due to work only figures to increase. All sorts of issues come up in regards to the cubicle life, primarily when it comes to back health and blood circulation. And then you have the other major problem when it comes to cubicle life…the constant snacking. Truthfully, I have already started to fall prey to this mentality, eating peanuts on a regular basis and sitting down most of the time. In respect to my line of work, you can’t really blame me for this problem, merely because I need to make dozens of calls during the day. When you start snacking on a regular basis and don’t move around, the weight is just going to start piling on, and you can take that to the bank. Right now, I have somewhat decent control over what I do, for I seem to have more of a water consumption issue than anything. So the biggest issues regarding cubicle life are certainly obesity and body related, the kind of stuff that will require a lot of self control, work in the gym and some good body work (a.k.a massage therapy or chiropractor) But is this worse than actually running at a fast pace? And for that matter, what constitutes a fast pace?
Now I have explored the problem of running before. First of all, running can cause some damage to the body. While it is true that pressure can be placed on the joints and stress can be placed on muscle, there has been many studies to indicate that running can actually slow down the deterioration that so many expect with old age. http://www.runnersworld.com/health/heres-another-way-running-helps-to-slow-aging Now this study in particular was a pretty small sample size, but you get the gist of the argument. But even though there is plenty of good side effects to maintaining a strong running regimen, the biggest problem certainly comes from overuse. Now the study from the Copenhagen group of researchers wasn’t the first to make this assumption, for last year another study that followed 3800 runners indicated very similar results. http://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/misc-health-news-265/too-much-running-linked-to-shorter-lifespan-studies-find-686310.html
Excessive running can be rough on the heart, for the overextended use of long distances may create come problems down the road. I already mentioned in another blog about the problems caused by troponin, which is an enzyme that is released when the heart is working too hard and is causing tears in the heart muscle. This particular enzyme is typically in high levels when people have heart attacks. Considering the heart history my family seems to have, my recent activities may very well be putting me in some danger. This past week I churned out 19.93 miles out on the running track, averaging out to roughly a 9.50 per minute mile over the course of the three runs. Heck, I averaged a good 9.37 per mile over the span of the first 14 miles I ran this week. The question starts coming down to this. How much will be too much for me? Considering I lift weights and such three times a week, I have to start wondering if this trek of mine to lose weight and be healthy will ultimately kill me. Eventually I want to start running eight miles a night a couple times a week, because it only seems to be the natural progression for my fitness goals. The fact that I made two seven-mile run-in a week look quite easy, this is a very possibility in the near future for me. This could also lead to me running more than 20 miles a week while putting in nearly four hours out on the track. Just how much more will my body be able to handle? I mean, I want to get a little fast than what I am doing, for some day I hop to get under the nine-minute range. But should I start worrying?
Truthfully, the choice is still up to me. Since I have a long way before I earn the body I want to have, it will be a tough choice to scale back. I have come to enjoy the idea of pushing my body to place it has never been. But I must also learn that I have to do it at a level that is within my reach. While I can certainly run longer distances, my ability to maintain a heavy pace is not something I can do over the course of 10 or 11 miles. But perhaps these two studies were just isolated studies, the kind of thing that often leads to good copy by bad science. In a rather swift rebuttal about the release of this week’s anti-running article, New York Times Columnist Justin Wolfers offered up other pieces of evidence with the study that kind of indicated the opposite of the studies I have mentioned already. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/06/upshot/no-more-running-probably-isnt-bad-for-you.html?abt=0002&abg=1&_r=2
Like any good journalist, Wolfers pointed out the study from Denmark only followed 878 runners, with abilities ranging from good to extreme. Of those people, only 17 died, and only 2 of those people that died were deemed “strenuous runners.” But the Danish health council made the grandiose declaration that hard running will kill you regardless, putting into question just how reliable these studies should be. The obvious claim, which is something I make sometimes, is the sample size is just too small and the variables too many. But here is the other problem, if we can poke holes into this kind of research due to a small sample size, wouldn’t this pretty much apply to just about every study out there? Now Mr. Wolfers is certainly a biased source, being a columnist and all, but he did point out something that these studies continue to misrepresent. Doing some form of running is much better than doing no running!
Now I am not a good runner by any means, but considering how much better I am getting, does it mean I should start contemplating on scaling back. Personally, I say no, because like my change in diet and my removal of cable television, change has been all for the better in regards to my life. But there is that morbid fascination we have with death, the end result any life. We are going to die regardless, and it leads to questions about what kind of life you wish to live. Personally, I really don’t want to be sick and unhealthy. Yesterday I ran a good 5.77 miles, and then hiked another five miles and then went pretty much the whole day without a full meal until dinner time (though I don’t recommend you do that). Three years ago, I never would have thought to do such a thing. It was funny when I was hiking, for my hiking friends mentioned the amount of time we spent hiking would have been the equivalent to a long football game or a few hours of random television. Maintaining that steady diet of life is making life all the better for me, even though I had a little accident when I fell into the water (yes, the trail had a stream head on it) and probably ruined a $400 dollar cell phone that will set me back for nearly a month. And while I am angry about having replace my phone, I got to experience the cold as hell water I fell into, getting shocked to the bone and experiencing something I never used do. I experienced life.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.