I’ve always thought the cliché everything in moderation was ridiculous. Now I’ve got some stats to back me up. The “world’s largest study on running” has concluded that more exercise is better, period.
“The government was saying you get benefits by walking three or four times per week. My data has shown that the more you do the greater the benefits,” stated Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Paul Williams to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ve had people doing 100 miles a week of running and you could see benefits up to that level.
Williams has studied approximately 100,000 people over the last 20 years. He reports that exercise seems to prevent heart disease and stroke, as well as vision problems, like glaucoma and cataracts. He speculates that a link between running and cancer prevention “may just be a matter of time” since most of his subjects were young when the study began. The study doesn’t just observe running. “Any sort of regular aerobic activity helps,” say Williams. “The more hours they put in, the more benefits they’ll see.”
So where did all this moderation nonsense come from? I can understand recommending vices in moderation. This makes sense. A bevy of studies indicate some amount of “bad” behavior can be healthy. So, yes, by all means moderate those things that we know can cause harm. You know, smoking, gambling, watching TV, impromptu drag races on public roads… things like that. But healthy stuff? Why should we moderate our eating habits, getting enough sleep so that we feel good, challenging our brains to learn new things, and exercising? To paraphrase my favorite doctor (Bones per the Captain), where’s the logic, man?
According to the article, “doctors and public health officials worry that with half the country not meeting the (current) guidelines, even talking about running 50 miles per week will intimidate folks who aren’t doing anything.”
This is bullshit. It’s a smokescreen. If more is better, and we know it, then the common sentiment should be that more is better. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t advise easing into exercise. Doctors are supposed to advise things. But we do the opposite. We—as a society–caution away from too much exercise. That we’re of lawsuits or worried that recommending too much exercise might lead to injuries doesn’t make sense when you consider that it’s a 100% fact that too little exercise leads to illness and pre-mature death. So what gives?
Call it a conspiracy if you want, but how are doctors going to stay in business if nobody gets sick? How are corporations going to keep their salaried employees working 16 days if the public conscience is that they should spend a few hours a day moving around? How are marketers going to sell ad space if we stop spending five and a half hours each day surfing the net and watching TV*? Where’s all this moderation talk when we really need it?
My dog is 15 years old. He’s outlived the expected age for his breed by 40%. Most “responsible” (their word) dog owners and vets have told me I work him too hard. He’s climbed hundreds of mountains. He’s run multiple marathons. He’s done ultra marathons. Somehow, all this exercise hasn’t killed him but made him stronger. In fact, he still gets out for two miles or so a day and is grouchy when he doesn’t. Sure, he’ll die one day. We all will. But his life, which has been anything but moderate, is testament to my belief that life should be lived full on, and that everything in moderation is a societal excuse to give up your life it live it as defined by others.
* Based on a study that’s a few years old. It’s probably worse now.
pic: tuco at 15. still running.