Some Joggers May Want to Take It Easy

Heart health and longevity were best in light and moderate joggers

(RxWiki News) Many avid joggers feel guilty about taking days off from running. However, taking it easy may be healthier than going overboard.

A new study found that light and moderate joggers lived longer than people who were sedentary. They also were less likely to die than avid joggers who did not take many days off.

"Common sense tells us that extremes of any behavior are usually not beneficial and such is also the case it appears with exercise," said Sandeep Singh, MD, of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas, in an interview with dailyRx News. "Being a couch potato is going to lead to health problems (obesity, diabetes, etc) and lead to early death from heart attack or stroke. Conversely, vigorous (extreme) levels of activity without giving our body a chance to 'take a break' can be harmful because the body simply doesn't get a chance to replenish energy stores."

The authors of this study said patients may see the most benefit from moderate exercise.

“If your goal is to decrease risk of death and improve life expectancy, jogging a few times a week at a moderate pace is a good strategy,” said lead author Peter Schnohr, MD, DMSc, of Frederiksberg Hospital in Denmark, in a press release. “Anything more is not just unnecessary, it may be harmful.”

For this study, these researchers assessed more than 1,000 healthy joggers and nearly 4,000 healthy non-joggers. None of these patients had a history of heart disease, stroke or cancer.

Dr. Schnohr and team kept track of these patients' running habits and followed up with them after more than 10 years. They found that people who jogged one to 2.4 hours per week were 71 percent less likely to die during the study period than sedentary non-joggers. Also, jogging two to three times per week was the ideal “dose” of jogging.

These researchers also found that the death rate of serious joggers was similar to the death rate of sedentary non-joggers.

Dr. Singh said patients don't have to start out exercising at full throttle.

"I recommend patients start very slow, so they are comfortable and make it enjoyable," he said. "The goal is to make it a fun and integral part of their lifestyle so it becomes almost second nature in the thought process."

Dr. Schnohr and colleagues concluded that their findings may demonstrate “an upper limit for exercise dosing that is optimal for health benefits.”

In an editorial about this study, Duck-chul Lee, PhD, of the Department of Kinesiology at Iowa State University in Ames, and colleagues called for more research on this topic.

"The general consensus of the data certainly suggests that 'more is not better!' regarding running and mortality," Dr. Lee and team wrote. "However, we still need more data to truly determine 'is more actually worse?' regarding exercise dose and prognosis."

The study and editorial were published Feb. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Schnohr and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 2, 2015