Physical activity is associated with a better, healthier and longer life. Of this there is no doubt. However, recently the question has arisen; is there a point beyond which we do more harm than good? In our hustle bustle, all or none modern society, can we exercise too much?
Legend and myth would lead us to believe that this is indeed the case. The originator of the marathon, Pheidippides, reportedly died after running the 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards) and exclaiming, “Nike (victory)!” to his fellow Athenians. More recent studies have shown transient myocardial damage after engaging in such strenuous, long-distance events.
Now a new study suggests that an overly aggressive running regimen may be as bad as not exercising at all. As part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, over 5,000 volunteers were studied. Over 1,000 otherwise healthy joggers were compared to approximately 4,000 healthy non-joggers over almost 15 years. The mortality rates were studied.
The note lowest mortality rate was associated with just 1 to 2.4 h of jogging per week with a frequency of 1 to 3 times per week. In addition, the optimal pace was a slow one. Those who exercised were classified as light, moderate or strenuous joggers. Consistent with the above, the group with the lowest mortality risk was those who did light jogging. Those who ran strenuously, fared no better than those who did not exercise at all.
The Buddha is famed for telling us that enlightenment lies in the middle path; between the extremes of apathy and zealousness. It seems that the survival, at least with respect to exercise and running, walks that very same road.
 (Schnohr, O’Keefe, Marott, Lange, & Jensen, 2015)
Schnohr, P., O’Keefe, J. H., Marott, J. L., Lange, P., & Jensen, G. B. ( 2015). Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality. J. Am Coll Cardiol., 65(5):411-419. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.11.023 .