Running: It Really Is Good for You

Posted by Filed Under: Science and Research

running researchSo, I’m moseying on down the Information Superhighway in search of a training plan to get back on the wagon after realizing that, between one way and another, I ran all of seven times in September. (The upside? Since one of those times was the New Haven 20K, and two of them were long Saturday runs, mileage wasn’t down terribly for the month.)

Anyway, I came across a study funded by the U.S. Government on the health effects of running. Good stuff. If you want facts, it’s a click away.

The researcher’s thesis, in short, appears to be that (A) Running is good for you; and (B) Running is Really good for you because it does something to your High Density Lipoproteins, specifically the “large diameter” High Density Lipoproteins. The take-away for these statements was, for me, (A) Duh; and (B) Um, yeah… what’s for supper? But, really, the research was good reading for a couple of reasons.

Running Is Better Than Just Losing Weight

No really—The study conducted an experiment where they measured the concentrations of High Density Lipoproteins in two groups of men who lost an average of 10 lbs each. In the control, the weight loss was done strictly by diet with no additional exercise. The other group ran off the weight in addition to dieting.

(As an aside, going back to one of my first bits on this site, it’s about 100 calories/mile, and 3,500 calories/Lb of fat, 35 miles per pound, or 350 miles to drop 10 lbs. I’d call this group runners.)

The other lesson to be taken from this was that the runners who ran more did better in their blood chemistry than the runners who ran less, regardless of weight loss. Even more reason to get out there…

Running Makes Bad Food Less Bad

The study found that the further you run, the less negative impact a bad food (red meat, in this study) had on your Body Mass Index (BMI). The downside was that good foods (fruits, in this case) had less of a positive impact.

Which is to be expected, I guess. I’m pretty convinced that from an evolutionary standpoint that human beings are meant to be runners, or at least pretty serious hikers, what with all the hunting and gathering and heading off to hit on the girls in the next tribe. If we’re running, food of all types are closer to being just fuel, instead of being something that we need to seriously consider and debate before shoving it in our pieholes (mmmm, pie…).

It’s More Important To Be Fit Than To Be Out There

This one kind of threw me for a loop:

(C)ardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity have significantly different relationships to (Cardiovascular
Disease) risk. The reduction in relative risk is nearly twice as great for cardiorespiratory fitness than for physical activity. …
Being unfit warrants consideration as a risk factor, distinct from inactivity, and worthy of screening and intervention. A question is: when is it appropriate to screen for and intervene upon low levels of physical fitness, irrespective of physical activity status?

Which to me translates as “Ditch the donuts, Homer.” There’s bonus points for trying, but no real benefit until you succeed.

You Get Fatter as You Get Older

Yeah, so this one kicked me in the teeth: It’s pretty much inevitable to gain weight in middle-age if you don’t increase the mileage. The metabolism slowdown that I ignored through my 20’s (both age and weight gains…) just keeps slowing down. Running distance needs to increase annually, by 1.4 miles per week in order to compensate for the expected increase in waist circumference between ages 20 and 50.

Which is fortunate, as I just figured out how to add an extra hour to each day…

It’s Not All Bad News

Booze has benefits. Even for runners, booze tended to raise the amount of High Density Lipoprotein in the blood. This doesn’t offset the other health impacts, many negative, of the sauce, but it’s at least got something going for it. The downside is that booze may not increase the “Good” High Density Lipoproteins (HDL2), but now we’re keeping track of three types of Lipoproteins, so I think it’s time to summarize.


There’s stuff in the study for women and seniors, but as I’m neither of those, and starting to get long-winded, I’ll wrap up.

In a lot of ways, I’m preaching to the converted here—I hope, if you’re at Complete Running, you’re favorably inclined towards hitting the roads, trails, or treadmill from time to time. But, as my preacher says, sometimes it’s good to hear the good news.

Back in my days as a submariner, we had a book we kept in the wardroom called “Theory to Practice.” The whole point of the book was to keep a record of the times we’d taken a bit out of one of the manuals, such as the amount of load a given bit of gear would put on the electrical generators, and tie that “theory” to an actual reading (the “Practice”).

This study seems to me like a solid “Theory to practice” on the benefits of running—it’s all good if you are running, and it’s
always good to lose the weight. We already know that—this puts numbers behind common sense.

Now, off to do a little practice on my own…

About Bill Jankowski

Jank is the nom-de-plume (alias) of Bill Jankowski. Jank is a runner (defined as “one who runs”, without any necessary claims of athleticism). More accurate would be to say that he enjoys the company of his iPod, and goes to great lengths to get long periods of time alone with his thoughts. Plus, running is a wonderful way to keep his ego in check. He’s been physically active since he was a kid (assuming that, for the years 1995-1999 and 2001-2003, drinking counts as “active”), playing Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, and Softball while in college (for his fraternity’s B-team)(Actually, add 1990-1994 to the years of inactivity). In addition to running, Jank swims (controlled drowning), bikes (’cause his mom suggested he play in traffic as a kid), and kayaks (see swimming, but with sharks and props). An engineer by the grace of God, a (recovering) submariner by the graces of the taxpayers of the United States, and an MBA by mistake, Bill enjoys gear (oooh, shiny!), cycling (oooh, shiny bikes and clothes!), and poking at accepted ideas with a pointy stick. In 2004, Jank decided he didn’t want to go full-over to being fat, and took up running (instead of stopping eating). In 2005, he finished his first marathon (WooHoo!) in October, and his second two weeks later (dumb idea). He is still recovering. Bill lives in Connecticut (the poorer, eastern part) with his lovely wife Melissa (who is far more fit than he is and way less navel-gazing about it), and their two sons, Jake and Nate, who, in addition to having deliberately cool names, are the finest children to grace the Earth (clear proof that “evolution through natural selection” is bunk; although he still questions the monthly bill for “Pool Boy” despite not having a swimming pool). His rants can be found at; his best stuff is found here at CRN.

  1. Mark Iocchelli on October 17th at 1:26 pm

    There’s a lot of terrific info packed in here and in that link but you haven’t shared where one gets that extra hour.

  2. jank on October 18th at 8:19 am

    Regarding the extra hour – I have a truly marvelous proof of this proposition which this comment box is too narrow to contain.


  3. Mark Iocchelli on October 18th at 1:42 pm

    oy! Is there a Cole’s Notes version of that? 😉

  4. Sergeo on March 25th at 8:31 pm

    Hi there i just started running, and i was wondering how many miles should and average person…..say 150 LBS should run in a day? Thanks!

  5. bob on May 6th at 7:24 am

    is running better than walking?

  6. rick on May 19th at 3:41 am

    I run about 6km every other day and the benifits seem endless.Should I strech it out some or should I leave it alone?Im 43yrs old 6ft 195lbs

  7. Kirk Dickenson on January 25th at 7:37 am

    I work in a hospital and walk miles every day, is that nearly as good? I also run about 12 ks a week. Someone told me recently that running is bad for the heart, is that true?

    Kirk Dickensons last blog post..MY ANNUAL TRIP TO DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK

  8. Kieran on February 28th at 11:54 am

    Running long distance is NOT natual for the body. The body was designed for stop-and-go activities. Circuit training – working through 6 or 7 exercises fast, resting one minite and repeating 3 or four times – is superior. Too much running breaks downb the body and makes you look older. That said, running is great for de-stressing. It;s also great for mulling over problems, or for creative thinking or simply to get out and get some air.

  9. Jon (was) in Michigan on February 28th at 3:19 pm

    Interesting, Kieran. What kind of exercises would be included in the circuit training? I’m not sure bodies were actually designed for cycling.
    .-= Jon (was) in Michigan´s last blog ..Guess who went running =-.

  10. Kieran on March 1st at 12:43 am

    Hey Jon – no, our bodies weren’t designed for cycling, either . . . that’s true! Hey, don’t get me wrong – I’m not ‘anti-running’. I just happen to believe that excessively long runs are counter-productive to the health gains it gives you. Runs of 30 minutes – particularly runs with a few sprints sprinkled throught – are fine. But about your circuit training question: I tried a circuit called Crazy 8 that I culled off the internet. It’s a workout that’s done in 20 minutes. With a warmup, workout and stretching after, you’re done in less than a half hour. And the best part is, you will get great results from it in terms of toning and fat loss. One warning: this is TOUGH. You will be panting like a steam train. Your muscles will burn. You will want to rest. It’s basically short and intense. But highly effective. I tried it for a month with great results. You can always go back to running – I still run myself, I just don’t overdo it anymore. But this workout is streets ahead. Here’s a link to the exercises

  11. Jon (was) in Michigan on March 3rd at 8:15 pm

    Excellent link, Kieran. I’m liking it. 🙂

    Still not sure what you mean by “overdoing it” with running though. 😉
    .-= Jon (was) in Michigan´s last blog ..Still here =-.

  12. Kieran on March 7th at 6:08 pm

    Cheers Jon. Yep it’s a good link isn’t it? You tried the workout yet? By ‘overdoing it’ I mean running for more than an hour – some people run for 90 minutes or more. I think that’s crazy, not to mention time-consuming. Also, super-long runs – in my opinion – do more damage to the body than actually benefiting it. I think runs of 30-40 minutes are fine. You can do a lot in a 40 minute run; you can do sprints, steady-state, tempo running, whatever. I still believe in running; it’s great for the mind, brilliant for stress reduction, and you WILL get results, especially if you keep your diet reasonably clean. I say ‘reasonably’ because I dislike perfection. I still like beer and treats. If you can’t have those, why live?