Running more IS good for you, mindfulness

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

I can’t even believe I have to post about the fact that running more isn’t bad for your health but people who don’t like running, of course, grab on to poor explanations of inconclusive studies and try to drag runners down. I just want to do all I can to make sure anyone reading this knows there’s no basis in what they are saying.

Also something interesting on being mindful during your workouts.

Running more IS good for you

I recently posted about poor reporting on an inconclusive study. The study said we didn’t have enough evidence to determine whether or not running every day or nearly every day was good for you, basically because they didn’t have enough people in the study who did run every day or nearly every day. The media spun that into running too much is just as bad for your health as being a couch potato. Bad reporting on an inconclusive study.

So what do we really know?

First, Alex Hutchinson has a great follow-up.

In short, another study that supposedly finds that too much running is bad for you. The catch this time? They controlled for BMI. Hutchinson perfectly describes the problem with that with this:

The data shown above has been adjusted for various potential confounding factors, including BMI. That’s problematic, because BMI is actually both a confounding and a mediating variable: exercise lowers your BMI. For example, the group that never exercised had an average BMI of 27.2, while the group that exercised daily had a BMI of 25.2. Adjusting for BMI effectively penalizes the exercise group for being thinner, as if it were a random effect rather than a direct result of the exercise.

What I like about this, as Hutchinson also points out, is that the researchers understood and discussed this limitation, then gave further numbers to break things down. The result?

For lean participants, more workouts was always better. For overweight and obese participants, 4-6 workouts per week was worse than 2-3 per week but not worse than no activity.

Two key takeaways in my opinion. First, for those who are fit, more exercise is better. Second, this shows the importance of considering the fitness of the individual. Any exercise is strenuous for an obese individual. It makes sense that 4-6 strenuous workouts a week isn’t going to be good for anyone. So we need to prescribe exercise differently for different people. Less for those who need to build some baseline fitness, then more as they build their fitness and improve their health. More to start for those who already have some baseline fitness.

Next up, thoughts from the National Runners’ Health Study.

Dr. Williams’s research has found progressively greater health benefits for runners topping 30, 40, even 49 miles a week.

"Almost everybody can benefit significantly by increasing their exercise level," says Dr. Williams, who is publicly calling for a two-tiered approach to exercise guidelines, one that would give substantial attention to the benefits of going far beyond the current minimum recommendations.

A lot of good and very powerful benefits listed here. The one concern some present is that you keep it sustainable. This seems obvious but is often overlooked. No amount of exercise now is going to benefit you decades from now unless you’re still doing it decades from now.


Ok, enough about more being good for you. Let’s shift gears.

How do you enjoy your running more? Maybe by being more mindful.

In short, we’ve known for some time that one of the best ways to stick to an exercise routine is to find it satisfying. But how do you make a routine more satisfying? Apparently "awareness of what is happening in the present moment" (aka mindfulness) plays an important role.

“The message is that mindfulness may amplify satisfaction, because one is satisfied when positive experiences with physical activity become prominent,” says Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Utrecht University who led the study. “For those experiences to be noticed,” she continued, “one must become aware of them. We would argue that this can be achieved by being mindful.”

The study isn’t perfect (to be honest, show me a bulletproof study with bulletproof results and I’ll be highly impressed) but the results are interesting and worth considering.

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