Too much is never enough

January 22, 2010 at 5:54 am 1 comment

When it comes to exercise, there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

This is the takeaway from the research of Dr. Paul Williams, who in the last 20 years has studied the relationship between exercise dosage/volume of aerobic activity and health in more than 100,000 runners.

In the WSJ article, “Why You Should Step Up Your Workout,” Kevin Helliker reports that

Dr. Williams’s most noted research dates back to 1991, when he used a subscription list from Runner’s World magazine to identify a cohort of about 55,000 runners. In the years that followed, he doubled that number by recruiting participants at running and walking events. Calling his project the National Runners’ Health Study, Dr. Williams began dispatching surveys asking runners to describe in great detail their running regimens, their demographics and their medical histories.

The National Runners’ Health Study has produced more than 40 published articles. From the outset, a one-word theme emerged from his findings: more. An early study, for instance, found that male distance runners gained weight with age unless they added mileage.

Current federal guidelines recommend about 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Dr. Williams, however, wants to up the ante.

Dr. Williams’ studies have shown that exceeding the federally recommended exercise guidelines can reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, glaucoma, diabetes and other diseases by as much as 70% above the benefits of merely meeting the guidelines. “There is no gene or drug discovery that comes close” to the effects of more and more-vigorous exercise, says Dr. Williams, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley Calif.

Public health officials are afraid of acting on Dr. Williams’ research, however, out of a fear that any campaign to increase exercise intensity and volume would intimidate an already sedentary population.

While Dr. Williams is well respected by other exercise scientists, he is shunned by those in the public-health field. Dr. Williams is routinely excluded from committees charged with formulating exercise guidelines, and his grant proposals are often rejected as irrelevant because few exercisers want to hear the word “more.” Public-health officials also worry that touting Dr. Williams’s research could discourage the sedentary from doing any exercise at all, or lure them off the couch with goals too lofty to engender success.

Read more here and here.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jleeger  |  January 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    The Culture of Fear

    Reply

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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