Run for your life works, but just dont overdo itBy YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH
The Kansas City Star
Unless I drop dead on my planned eight-mile training run this morning, Ill continue to believe that strenuous exercise is one good way to stay healthy and live a full life.
And if you get your heart beating fast by running or cycling, swimming, lifting weights or another demanding activity odds are you ought to keep doing the same things, too.
I believe so even though the public just got a dose of bad news about exercise, about how too much of it can lead to formation of scar tissue in hearts that increases the possibility of dangerous rhythms.
Yes, this news got plenty of attention partly because of the irony involved: Dont you exercise to get healthier and live longer, not to possibly die sooner?
For many Americans, hearing that theres anything bad about exercise simply gives them an excuse to keep being a couch potato.
One of the studies in question is titled, Potential adverse cardiovascular effects from excessive endurance exercise, co-authored by local cardiologist James OKeefe.
The recent reports kicked off much discussion on Internet chat boards.
Many longtime runners especially those involved in training for marathons scoffed at the idea that exercising for more than an hour a day could be bad for them.
Others sensibly said they would take a closer look at the findings and decide whether they should scale back on the amount of hard exercise.
All of this hoopla certainly percolated into my world.
I regularly run strenuously for more than an hour at a time, albeit only three times weekly. Part of my summer training is done with high school runners. Sunday mornings are reserved for training with a group of men who, like me, are in their 40s to 50s and have been running for years.
The proposition that most caught my eye was OKeefes declaration in an email exchange with Runners World that the latest findings suggest the ideal dose of daily vigorous exercise is about 30 to 60 minutes.
This finding might appeal to some (like me) who arent exactly enamored with running for two hours or more at a time but think they have to do it to get in shape.
As OKeefe went on to say in his email, Heck, you can get the majority of improvements in cardiovascular risk and longevity with a mere 20 to 30 minutes of walking per day.
OKeefe repeatedly emphasized that even a bit of exercising beats the alternative of sitting and watching TV.
Thats obviously a very important point to make to the majority of Americans.
Of course, this is the same majority that too often sit on their duffs and do nothing, worsening this nations obesity problems and greatly ratcheting up U.S. spending on costly health care.
Despite the new studies, many people (and again, Im in that camp) will continue a vigorous exercise regime they believe is good for their health. Its also crucial that their doctors say they dont have individual health problems that should curtail their activities.
Many runners, cyclists, swimmers and others will keep training hard for other reasons.
First, they know that life itself is full of risks. While exercising can cause health-related problems, it also can lead to positive outcomes such as weight loss.
Second, they like competition. They like taking part in 5k races and finishing ahead of people half their age. They like challenging themselves, not just going out for a daily jog.
Cardiologist Chip Lavie, another veteran runner and co-author of a few recent reports warning about over-exercising, said recently, But Ill keep running because its something I enjoy so much, something that relaxes me, something that gives me time to think over my lectures and such.
Many runners know exactly what Lavie is saying.
We exercise because even in the heat, cold, wind and rain its become such a pleasing part of our life.