Jogging ... not as good as you thought

Jogging has long been considered the gold star of exercise and health, but lately researchers have been analyzing why apparently fit and lean people who use jogging as their primary fitness activity have abnormal blood profiles, get injured often, and in a few cases, have dropped dead. How can that be?

The primary reason is that humans function and benefit as interval machines, not as endurance athletes. It's not to say the occasional jog should be avoided, but using distance running as a primary source of fitness, maintaining relatively the same heart rate, actually trains the heart and lungs to become more efficient, but shrinks their capacities. In order to regenerate and become stronger, our systems must be challenged, near maximum capacity, in brief bursts of effort. Enter Interval Training.

Interval Training is Better
- Interval Training is defined as short and brief bursts of exertion and elevation of heart rate followed by brief periods of rest/recovery.
- The heart is a muscle which responds to, gets stronger, and more efficient due to challenge and exertion, not constant tempo/pace of the same repetitive movement.
- "Weight-bearing, anaerobic bursts are the best training for building muscle, and lean muscle mass is critical to health. It also increases your aerobic capacity, natural growth hormone production and insulin sensitivity." -M.Sisson
- Realize that there is no difference between traditionally labeled 'Cardio' exercise and 'Weight' or Resistance Training, only a spectrum of intensity. The stairmaster (traditional cardio) and a lunge (traditional weight training) are the same joint motions (hip and knee), with different ranges and responding heart rates. Lunge more intense/shorter duration, Stairmaster less intense/longer duration.

- Cardio machines can be used to do intervals.
- Although all exercise involves inflammation, analyzed blood profiles of post-race marathon runners closely resembles that of a heart attack victim.

Other Considerations
- Should people considered obese or even slightly overweight be burdening their joints with continual pounding that may cause damage?

- If you have to wear a knee brace, isn't that an indication maybe you should choose another activity?
- One person's walk is another's jog just as one's half mile is another's marathon. Exertion is effort and heart rate dependent. Distance and effort are goal and capability dependent.
- The heart is a muscle and unless pushed to exertion and maximal functioning capacity, it will heart become less efficient.
- The common human diet, loaded with pro-inflammatory foods, promotes breakdown of fragile cartilage, exacerbated by a continual, repetitive, and durational pounding activity such as jogging.

The Science and The Facts

- All forms of exercise generate inflammation within the body, yet the longer the activity is, the more inflammatory blood profile, most notable elevated levels of C- reactive protein.

- Training that is too much for too long raises cortisol levels, increases oxidative damage, systemic inflammation, depresses the immune system and decreases fat metabolism.

- As descendants of Hunter-Gatherers, we have a structure that has enabled us to survive and thrive in the ability to collect and hunt food with a fight or flight mechanism. Excessive, long duration Cardio is simply not part of our genetic makeup, nor are marathons and 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer.

- As a former distance runner myself, up to 80 miles a week at the age of 14, I can attest to the only two things it did for me was hurt my hip and increase my craving for sugar, to replace lost glycogen stores.

Ideas & Tips
Mix it up with different workouts along an intensity spectrum. Days of lower intensity with long walks are beneficial and should be included in any exercise strategy.

Interval Ideas (all under 60 sec)
Jump Rope
100 meter sprints
Hiking or walks with hills or terrain
Stairs or bleachers
Lateral jumping
Box hops
All Resistance Training exercises
Mountain Climbers

Sources and Reference

Are you Running Yourself to Death?

Dr. Al Sears' PACE Program

Dr. James O'Keefe: Excessive Endurance Training Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing, Research Suggests

Marathons Damage the Hearts of Less Fit Runners for Up to Three Months, MRI Data Suggest

How to burn more fat, with less effort