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Too Much is Never Enough

Posted by bmagnus On February - 3 - 2010

The National Runners Health Study (NRHS) is an ongoing research effort that began in 1991. Over the years, over 120,000 active runners have been involved. Needless to say, over the years lead researcher Dr. Paul Williams has published dozens of peer reviewed papers on his findings. The biggest conclusion is simple: for the most part and for most people, more exercise is better.

With all these papers, you would think that Dr. Williams would be someone often cited by public health officials on the importance of exercise, but you would be wrong. The problem is this (emphasis added:

[F]or years, he’s been a critic of national guidelines that recommend people get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, or about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

That’s a fine goal for the couch potatoes, Williams says, but it’s shortchanging the millions of Americans who already get the minimum amount of exercise and might not realize that doing more – maybe even doubling their workouts – would improve their health.

Public health officials worry that as hard as it is to get Joe Average to work out a half hour a day, it would be almost impossible to motivate him to do the sort of workout Dr. Williams thinks would be beneficial. His current research shows solid, measurable benefits to running 50 miles per week. This data confirms research he first published in 1997. Although he thinks there are even more benefits for those who can run 100 miles per week, he admits that he doesn’t have enough study participants actually doing that to make a scientific claim — yet.

Actually, the truth is that he would like to see a two-layer approach to the problem: keep the minimum standards as a goal for the sedentary, but add a second tier to show the benefits of increased effort.

Make no mistake, this advanced level of exercise is something that most people will have to work up to over the course of many months to avoid injury. Further, this is a level where programed breaks for a few days of rest or active recovery may help prevent overtraining. However, it is a level that most people can, with effort, do and reap great benefits.

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