Thursday, April 3, 2014

Can Running Cut Your Lifespan?

Yeah, right. Here's another reason I don't believe those "reports" about "research" on health, diet, and exercise.

The tease says, "A little running, good. Moderate running, even better. But high-mileage running may lead to a shorter lifespan, according to new research."

And here's the article on WebMD, titled "Too Much Running Tied to Shorter Life Span:

About a third of the way down the page, the article admits that the "study" "... didn't find any differences that could explain these longevity differences."

In other words, the researchers used data that they couldn't even analyze. This is, unfortunately, very typical of medical and biological studies. And, as I've mentioned before, Madame L is going to have a lot to say about this.

In fact, Madame L is probably going to sponsor a Dear Reader Contest in which she invites her Dear Readers to submit the most outrageous claims about medicine, supplements, diets, exercise, and whatever (beetles? snowflake formation? snake-skin eruption? snake-oil-selling? whatever!), along with their own totally made-up possible reasons for the results.

For instance, for this study on running, I wish the WebMD people had inserted some basic information into their reporting, such as what the actual life spans of the longer- and shorter-distance runners supposedly are. Repeat for emphasis: What was the actual lifespan difference?

And I'd like to suggest that the fact that long-distance runners have "shorter" life-spans than people who run less than 10 miles per week could be errors in self-reporting.  Maybe the people who said they ran more than 10 miles every week are really sitting on their couches eating marshmallows and watching soaps, elevating their heart rates by feeling that intense anxiety over who is going to cheat on whom in the next episode. Or whatever. I don't know. I haven't watched a soap since I was a little girl visiting my grandmother, who regularly watched General Hospital.

Also, I'd like to know how they determined the lifespans of the "average-46-year-old" participants in the study. Did they call them on a special grave phone later? I'm imagining the conversation:

Researcher: Hello, Mrs. Jones. So glad you could accept this call.

Mrs. Jones: Yeah, uh, The Evil One Himself said I could talk to you since it's all lies anyway.

Researcher: What? [long pause] Er, there seems to be some static. [another long pause while we hear the chief researcher tell the questioner, "Get on with it! Ask the question!"] Yes, okay, Ma'am, we see that you died at age 46.75, of cardiac arrest, while you were running a marathon.

Mrs. Jones: Yeah, you like that? That was my best lie, I mean, story, ever. A Days of Our Lives Marathon, with my sister Ruth, she's 10 years younger than me, but check your records, she died the next day. She'll tell you she never took an NSAID in her life, too.

And so on. You get the picture. Label me a skeptic. Along with Madame L and most of the thinking world.


  1. Yeahhhh. NOW I wanna see one that vivisects Fisherian statistics! Meet your call and raise ya one!
    I know ye ken DO it!

  2. I love your analyzing and skeptical mind process, and I especially love your imaginary scenario. I read these articles and I know that something's not right but I don't see what it is that bothers me. Just asking the obvious question of what is the actual life span difference is brilliant. Keep 'em coming!

  3. Seems like everyone wants to publish a study. Pshaw.