Woman running a marathon
Credit: William Murphy

Jogging – Sometimes More Harm Than Good

Most new trainees I meet tend to fall into 2 categories:

  1. They have no notion of “working out” – running, weights, or calisthenic strength training
  2. They jog a lot, but nothing else.

With both camps, fat loss and toning stagnates.  Despite efforts — or lack of efforts — both could not shake off excess fat, nor did they feel much healthier. So what’s the issue here?

Why I Dislike Cardio

If I needed to choose between jogging and being sedentary, I take jogging up every time. I love the rush of adrenaline and runner’s high after a good hour of running. But, I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that jogging and its use as a barometer of fitness and health is misguided.

For people who want strong joints and a longer life, jogging long distances, faster, for longer periods of time may be inferior to strength training for fat loss, muscle maintenance, joint protection, and bone density in the upper body. Now, according to research from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, jogging intensely may do more harm than good – even to your heart.

As Telegraph UK puts it:

A study of 1,098 runners found that those who ran the fastest were nine times more likely to die prematurely within 12 years than those who enjoyed a more sedate pace of around 5mph for two or three times a week.

In fact, strenuous runners were as likely to die as those who did no physical activity.

To put it bluntly, running too long may be hurting you. There is an upper limit to cardiovascular exercise in terms of keeping you healthy. The Journel of the American College of Cardiology, Ochsner Health System of New Orleans, and the University of South Carolina notes some of the signs that your jogging may be “too intense” for health reasons:

  • Pace averaging 7 mph or more
  • More than 3 times a week
  • Running over 2.4 hours a week
  • Running longer than 32 km (or 19.88 miles) per week

So if your goal is longer life and cardiovascular protection, a more mild approach to jogging may be in order. But before you stop running…

 

Different Goals – Aka the “It’s Your Life” Clause

Of course, if your goal is to run a marathon or compete in the Ironman, you will need that extra endurance. In that case, your goal is to be a better competitor in an Ironman, not living as long as possible. There is nothing wrong with this.

Even weightlifting can be done to detriment. Opposite of long-distance cardio, weightlifting bodybuilders may be building amounts of muscle that can become unhealthy. However, that massive body composition is  their goal, and if they want muscle beyond use, they are free to build it.

The lesson here is – do whatever fulfills you and suits your goals.

If you’re jogging for health reasons, to keep your heart ticking happily, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with moderate paced cardio. For longevity, 5 mph jogs 2 to 3 times a week, from 1 to 2.4 hours a week is optimal for its protective benefits according to the journal.

In the pursuit of your body and lifestyle, it is up to you to decide how you want to continue. What type of body would you want? Would you want a powerlifter’s large frame, even if it means decreased health down the line? Do you want the runner’s sinewy, effective endurance engine? Do you want a sprinter’s lean, toned physique, or a gymnast’s powerful and graceful frame?

My choice is calisthenic strength training for a lean, powerful frame that can hurdle and overcome any wall and obstacle. My goal is to live a balance between the longest life possible, with the knowledge that I can move boxes on my own, or sprint after a man who steals my grandma’s purse (a story for another time!) For now, studies show that my choice of workout will lead me to a healthy, long life. Even if they did not… well, let’s just say that when I’m working out,  I feel like I am at my highest. Sometimes, you just got to wing it.

I didn’t quite talk about the role of cardio in fat loss here, despite teasing at the beginning of the article. I’ll have my intro to A Healthy Amount of Cardio for Fat Loss guide tomorrow.

Has this article changed your view on jogging? Will you exercise routines change? Let me know in the comments below!

Image by William Murphy

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About the author

Aaron Dear

Aaron Dear is a fitness advocate, bodyweight athlete, and product manager from Berkeley, California.

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