The New Running Study That Royally Ticked Off Runner’s World

They claim the wildly reported new study is totally misleading.



A new running study has been making the Internet rounds this week under headlines like “Cool News: Jogging Too Much Is Bad for You” and “Fast Running Is As Deadly As Sitting on the Couch, Scientists Find.” Sounds like you should go ahead a throw your running shoes in the dumpster, like, now, right? But before you do that, Runner’s World has a few things to say about the study, most of them not so nice. For starters, they say it’s entirely misleading.

To give you some background: The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study of over 1,000 runners over the course of 12 years. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that people who run at a slow pace for less than 2.4 hours total each week, have a lower chance of mortality than sedentary people, but folks who run fast and upward of four hours each week have the same chance of dying as people who sit on the couch all day. If you find this hard to believe, you can join team Runner’s World: The Emmaus-based magazine argues it’s simply not an accurate conclusion.

An article on the data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study was originally published in 2012, but the authors (the same ones who authored this recent study) didn’t make the same “running is killing you” claim back then that they’re making now.

Yesterday, Runner’s World’s Alex Hutchinson penned a piece, “The (Supposed) Dangers of Running Too Much,” rebutting the new study’s conclusion. As he points out, the sedentary group in the study rang in at 413 people, while the sample group of runners who ran fast and more than four hours each week was a much smaller 40 people. The number of deaths from the sedentary group over the course of the study was 128, while the number of deaths for the strenuous-runners group was two. That’s right, two.

“Yes, the conclusion of the study (that ‘strenuous’ jogging is as bad as being sedentary) is based on two deaths over more than a decade of follow-up. (Thank goodness a third person didn’t die, or public health authorities would be banning jogging),” Hutchinson writes.

He then goes on to highlight the study’s many inconsistencies, starting with the fact that the average age for the sedentary group was 61 years, whereas the average age for the running groups ranged between late-30s and 40s. As the writer points out, the reasons people die in their 30s and 40s tend to be pretty different from the reasons people die in their 60s. And because only two people in the strenuous running group died, it’s impossible to identify a pattern. Another inconsistency: 80 percent of the strenuous joggers were male, whereas men only made up 43 percent of the sedentary group.

In the end, Hutchinson says, “Seriously, to publish this data once was legitimate … To publish the same data a second time, this time making stronger claims … based on two (TWO!!!) deaths, is… well, you can make up your own mind. The data is right there.”

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: