A lot of runners train week by week with the goal of getting faster. Sure a new PB at a race is a great achievement and gives you a great feeling. But there are also downsides of running fast.
A study published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology tried to figure out how training and racing pace influence the life expectancy of runners. They tracked over 1,000 healthy runners and more than 400 healthy non-runners over a period of 12 years. They found that the fastest runners running faster than 7mph had a nine times higher chance of dying prematurely compared to moderate paced runners.
The researches found that running too fast over years will give you the same life expectancy as if you don’t do any physical exercise. The study suggests that there is an upper limit of physical exercise that is optimal for health benefits.
According to the researches 1 to 2.4 hours of running per week shows the lowest mortality. In general jogging at a moderate pace 2 or 3 times a week will give you the best health results. Again this research shows that regular, moderate exercise will extend your life compared to doing no sports at all. But that’s common sense by now I guess.
The scientists registered 28 deaths among the runners and 128 deaths in the non-runners group. Also the runners were in average younger, had a lower blood pressure and better values in the body mass index.
Bottom line science tells us that running too fast or too often won’t give you better health benefits. However the study didn’t analyze the reason for the deaths. So there is still more research needed to figure out what exactly causes the deaths and how we can plan our training accordingly.
In addition to the study described above faster running and a higher training volume is also harder on your locomotor system. The higher stress on your joints, bones, ligaments and muscles gives you a higher chance of getting injured. So the more and the faster you train the more you need to focus on injury prevention.
I wouldn’t say running faster and more miles is bad for you in general as improving gives you a great feeling of achievement. However you need to be more cautious if you increase your training volume. For most occasional runners going at a moderate pace two or three times a week is absolutely enough and backed by science that it’s the healthiest approach.
I myself don’t set the priority on running faster but try to stay at a certain level and just enjoy being outside in nature and moving at an intensity that is not too hard. Also I prefer the challenge to extend the miles I can run without a stop rather than increasing the pace.
What’s your opinion on this? Let us know by leaving a comment!