TUESDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- Running regularly has long
been linked to a host of health benefits, including weight control,
stress reduction, better blood pressure and cholesterol.
However, recent research suggests there may a point of
diminishing returns with running.
A number of studies have suggested that a "moderate" running
regimen -- a total of two to three hours per week, according to one
expert -- appears best for longevity, refuting the typical "more is
better" mantra for physical activity.
The researchers behind the newest study on the issue say people
who get either no exercise or high-mileage runners both tend to
have shorter lifespans than moderate runners. But the reasons why
remain unclear, they added.
The new study seems to rule out cardiac risk or the use of
certain medications as factors.
"Our study didn't find any differences that could explain these longevity differences," said Dr. Martin Matsumura, co-director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pa.
Matsumura presented the findings Sunday at the American College
of Cardiology's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Studies
presented at medical meetings are typically viewed as preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Matsumura and his colleagues evaluated data from more than 3,800
men and women runners, average age 46. They were involved in the
Masters Running Study, a web-based study of training and health
information on runners aged 35 and above. Nearly 70 percent
reported running more than 20 miles a week.
The runners supplied information on their use of common
painkillers called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen/Aleve), which have been
linked with heart problems, as well as aspirin, known to be
heart-protective. The runners also reported on known heart risk
factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes,
family history of heart disease and smoking history.
None of these factors explained the shorter lives of
high-mileage runners, the researchers said. Use of NSAIDs was
actually more common in runners who ran less than 20 miles weekly,
Matsumura's team noted. "The study negates the theory that
excessive use of NSAIDs may be causing this loss of longevity among
high-mileage runners," Matsumura said.
So what's the advice to fitness-oriented Americans?
"I certainly don't tell patients 'Don't run,' " Matsumura said. But, he does tell high-mileage runners to stay informed about new research into the mileage-lifespan link as more becomes known.
"What we still don't understand is defining the optimal dose of running for health and longevity," he said.
Even though the heart disease risk factors couldn't explain the
shorter longevity of high-mileage runners, there do seem to be
potentially life-shortening ill effects from that amount of
running, said Dr. James O'Keefe, director of preventive cardiology
at the Mid-American Heart Institute in Kansas City.
O'Keefe, who reviewed the findings, believes there may simply be
"too much wear and tear" on the bodies of high-mileage runners. He
has researched the issue and is an advocate of moderate running for
the best health benefits. Chronic extreme exercise, O'Keefe said,
may induce a "remodeling" of the heart, and that could undermine
some of the benefits that moderate activity provides.
In O'Keefe's view, the "sweet spot" for jogging for health
benefits is a slow to moderate pace, about two or three times per
week, for a total of one to 2.5 hours.
"If you want to run a marathon," he said, "run one and cross it off your bucket list." But as a general rule, O'Keefe advises runners to avoid strenuous exercise for more than an hour at a time.
To learn more about this field of research, head to the
Masters Running Study.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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