The Long Run
As often happens, local TV grabbed a complicated study and reduced it to a simple (and false!) sound bite - running may not be good for you because some marathoners have as much plaque in their arteries as people who sit all day. The unfortunate message that many people, especially non-runners, hear is that all running, not just marathons, is bad for you.
Don’t pay attention to TV – flesh-eating zombies aren’t real and neither is much of what TV reports about exercise. Here’s a nice recap of the study and intelligent critique written by Andy Burfoot in Runners World. If you’re interested, it has a link to the actual study. Draw your own conclusions rather than rely on a TV talking head.
Of course, lots of Boomers run. We’ve been running ever since cardiologist Dr. Kenneth Cooper popularized aerobics back in the 60s. Oregon has especially deep roots in running because Bill Bowerman, the fabled coach at U. of Oregon and Nike co-founder, wrote a little book on jogging that kicked off the running craze that has now endured for generations.
So is running okay? Is it a good way to exercise?
Absolutely. Humans have been running for a long time. It’s a survival skill. It’s also one of the best forms of cardio conditioning known to man. Runners, on average, have better heart and lung capacity, bone density, and balance than non-runners. To run, you need strong lower leg muscles for foot flexion, a necessity to avoid disability as you age.
Obviously running will not be the best form of cardio exercise for every older adult, especially if you have arthritis in the knees or hips (by the way, studies show runners don’t have arthritis in those joints any more than the general population).
The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to run far or fast to gain all the health benefits of running. Check out this study reported in Health Day. Just running at a moderate pace 2-3 times a week for a weekly total of 1-2 hours is all you need.
Running is more than just good for you. As many of us know who’ve run for decades now, it’s one of the primal joys of life.