Friday, November 30, 2012

Exercise, Good. Obsession (and High Carbs), Bad

"What the new research suggests is that the benefits of running may come to a hard stop later in life. In a study involving 52,600 people followed for three decades, the runners in the group had a 19% lower
death rate than nonrunners, according to the Heart editorial. But among the running cohort, those who ran a lot-more than 20 to 25 miles a week-lost that mortality advantage. "

"Not everyone is lining up behind the new data. "The guys advancing the hypothesis that you can get too much exercise are manipulating the data," said Paul Thompson, a former elite marathoner and nationally renowned sports cardiologist at Hartford Hospital. "They have an agenda."
"Sports cardiologist James O'Keefe, an author of the Heart paper, counters that Dr. Thompson is an exercise addict. "He, like many chronic exercise addicts, is the one with an agenda," said Dr. O'Keefe, a sports cardiologist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City. "My 'agenda' is my patients."
Critics of the newer research say that the idea that running can harm the heart is based on research showing only an association—meaning that exercise may not be the cause of the problem. The note that in any large group of runners, high-mileage and high-speed athletes may be too few in number to be statistically significant.""

There is a huge confounder in the aforementioned associative risk - that being that elite marathoners almost all eat massive quantities of carbohydrate.  I think it's completely plausible that the risk of death reflects the diet of these people as much as their excessive, top end aerobic work.  Folks like Mark Sisson ( will also point to the high levels of oxidative stress associated with super high endurance mileage as a likely culprit for these folks' health compromises. 
What is oxidative stress?  It's the stuff that you are supposed to be preventing by ingesting massive quantities of "anti-oxidants" every day, under the assumption that if you eat an anti-oxidant it will magically make its way into your cells and do the magic anti-oxidants purportedly do.  As to that, I'll believe it when I see the intervention study that shows a benefit.
As to the topic of this article, though, it shouldn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that many competitive endeavors rapidly degenerate into too much of a good thing, too much running/biking/swimming is a good example.

PS - the future of endurance running is going to look like this:

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