Running has taken a beating over the last couple years as new research calls into question the wisdom of long-duration, steady-state cardiovascular exercise. The criticism usually falls into one of three categories: 1) increased wear and tear on your joints, 2) it’s hard on your heart (“cardiotoxicity cycle”) and 3) increased oxidative stress. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage, and there is solid research to support this kind of exercise. But plenty of research supports good old-fashioned jogging too, and for my own peace of mind as an avid runner, lets review some of the good stuff shall we?

First a quick rebuttal to the anti-running points mentioned above.

  1. Joints respond well to use. Injuries can be largely avoided with good form and training habits. Multiple studies show decreased hip and knee joint replacements for runners.
  2. The drop in heart function after endurance training is short term. The heart recovers, and returns to an even higher level of performance in the long term.
  3. Short term increase in oxidative stress results in increased anti-oxidant production by the body and greater protection in the long term. Damage from oxidative stress is not based on how much you exercise, but rather on how your body is conditioned to handle it.

A key study discrediting the link between serious injury and running was written by Stanford University professor James Fries and his research team. Results of the study, published in 2008 by the Archives of Internal Medicine (renamed JAMA Internal Medicine), were remarkable and will continue to put smiles on the faces of runners for years to come. In a group of over 1000 people followed from 1984-2005, running (or another form of vigorous exercise) postponed disability by 16 years and death by 7-9 years. In addition, runners had fewer joint replacements than the non-running group. James Fries stated in a September 23, 2014 Wall Street Journal article that running is “the greatest intervention to postpone aging that’s ever been reported.” Fries will be publishing updated results next year, so runners have more good news to look forward to!

Ahhhhhh. A collective sigh of relief can be heard from runners everywhere. We should have never doubted what our bodies tell us every time we lace up those running shoes. We knew the answer all along: running is good.

Your’s in Health,

Joshua Penner, D.C.