SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT FOR CROSS TRAINING? The results of a scientific study performed using health data from more than 80,000 persons in England and Scotland were released in November 2016. The findings indicate that “significant reductions in all-cause mortality were observed for participation in” cycling, swimming, racquet sports and aerobics. Similar significant reductions were not found for participation in football (known as soccer in the US) and running.
CNN reported in detail on findings of this study in late November, describing how it was designed and carried out, as well as providing additional comments from the author and lead investigator, Dr. Pekkar Oja. It’s makes for very good reading if you wish to use exercise to improve health long term and remain an injury-free runner.
The article, "Swimming, Racquet Sports, and Aerobics Slash Risk of Death, Study Says" written by Hailey Middlebrook for CNN.com states, “If participants were active, no matter how, they reduced their risk of death by 28%.” Which means that runners were shown to obtain the health effects of being active in general, but not at the level of participants of three other types of sports. It was shown that “in particular -- swimming, aerobics and racquet sports- - were linked to even stronger decreases in risk of death from both heart disease and other causes”.
The finding that running was not tied to greater reductions in mortality was “surprising to the researchers, as running is frequently recommended as a longevity-boosting activity”. An explanation offered by Dr. Oja was that “runners did not stick to their program for the full study period, and therefore the sport didn't affect long-term health”.
"To benefit from exercise, the most important thing is to stay injury-free," said Dr Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of the Joan H. Tisch NYU Langone Center for Women’s Health, who was quoted by CNN and not involved with the study. Her thoughts were that, "a well-rounded mix of exercises is the best choice”.
The CNN article additionally emphasized that 1) facts show ANY exercise is more protective than none; 2) participation may be more regular and continuous and thus protective if the activity is loved/enjoyed; 3) variety in exercise activity may prevent sidelining boredom and injury; 4) sports that engage both arms/upper and legs/lower body may push us to work at a higher level of intensity and thus receive a greater health benefit; and 5) weight-bearing exercise must be added to a program that primarily involves swimming.
Earned Runs conclusions:
Comments: All research has limitations. Relatively few participants in this UK study population identified running or football/soccer as their activity, which may have affected the findings. Swimming was most popular among surveyed women and cycling among men .
A calculation designed to show how closely the reporting of activity correlated with activity recorded by a wearable device (accelerometer) revealed it would be mediocre. There was no comment on socioeconomic status among groups, which may confer independent health risk/advantage. The cost of access to some sports and activities may be prohibitive.
But, to date it is the first study to compare different sport activities in this way, and offers insights as to how runners might boost the health benefits of their training plans/programs without necessarily jeopardizing running performance.
Personal: I started swimming and taking tennis lessons last month, partly in reaction to this study and also to broaden my exercise and social experiences. Also I thought it would enable an honest discussion on this type of 'prescription'. I hope it will lead to running improvements as well. Please comment on your own experiences.
RUN, SWIM, AND, PLAY HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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