FOX News’ Dr. Jennifer Landa today published an article, “How endurance running can damage your health.” Within her article, Landa makes several unfounded claims, none of which provide overwhelming evidence that support her brash message.
The first, a 2011 study that was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, examined the cardiac structure and function of competitive endurance veteran athletes that were older than 50 years old. After reviewing their results with a control group and another group of younger athletes, the study authors found that the link between lifelong endurance exercises and myocardial fibrosis requires further investigation.
The second study, which was published in the 2011 European Heart Journal, studied 40 athletes and found that intense endurance exercise can cause acute dysfunction of the right ventricle in the heart, which mostly recovered within the week following a race. However, the researchers found that “the long-term clinical significance warrants further study.”
And lastly, Landa mentioned a third study, which was presented by the American College of Cardiology in 2010, that looked at the calcified coronary plaque volume. While marathon runners had higher calcified plaque volume, the researchers noted that “the study does not mean that exercise is bad for your heart” and that it shows “that the public and health care professionals must keep in mind that everyone is at risk for heart disease.
On top of that, she throws in her own personal experiences – the fact that when she trained for half marathons and triathlons, she suffered from low back pain and injuries. A sample size of one does not qualify a statement as harsh as endurance running damaging your health. With a balanced diet, a focus on cross-training and the right training equipment, many marathoners run for years without injury.
As a last-ditch effort, Landa throws in a claim that the 2013 New York City marathon winners look “emaciated” compared to Usain Bolt. As a doctor, Landa should know that marathon runners have completely different body structures and muscle fibers than sprinters, who require muscles with explosive power in order for them to reach the quick speeds required of them. Marathon running requires aerobic strength – the resulting muscle structure reflects that.
Now of course, Landa will likely never read this article, along with the millions of Americans that read her article earlier today and now gasp in fear whenever they see a runner… running. Instead of developing unfounded rumors with little scientific backing, perhaps Landa should spend her time educating the public about why they need to exercise instead of supporting the excuses why they shouldn’t.