herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Carol Hunt: Too much of a good thing can kill you

A tired jogger
A tired jogger
CH

I do love when a plan comes together. For some years now I've defended my lack of enthusiasm for any sort of exercise that involves exerting myself too much.

In the gym, I avoid the rowing machines, the running treadmills and those awful stair machines.

I take a jaundiced view of the super fit who run miles every day, making the rest of us feel like under-motivated slugs.

Because unless you're in training for a professional competition, I say, what's the point? There are other kinder, more enjoyable ways to keep fit and healthy.

When my husband belatedly took up running as a means of keeping fit, I warned him that it would all end in tears, and wouldn't you know he soon developed a chronic pain in his feet, from which he has yet to recover.

Karma, eh?

Gentle yoga is what I like. And if I need to push myself or "sweat everything out" then I go to Bikram yoga, where I suffer for my health in a way that won't give me a heart attack.

I've always known I was right and recent news has confirmed my long-held belief that too much strenuous exercise can be very bad for your health.

Researchers from Denmark have published a paper which shows that those who ran frequently at a fast pace were at the same risk of dying as those who spent their days on the couch watching Oprah, only moving to the fridge for another snack.

jogging

The study also found that those who ran the fastest were nine times more likely to die prematurely within 12 years than those who enjoyed a more sedate pace of around 5mph for two or three times a week.

"It is important to emphasize that the pace of jogging corresponds to very vigorous exercise," says Peter Schnohr, one of the researchers. "If performed for decades, this activity level could pose health risks."

Oh dear. My heart is just breaking here for all those fabulously fit people who condescend to tell the rest of us mere mortals how a good, brisk run or an exhausting stint in the gym must be done daily to have positive benefits.

Exercise can be addictive, you know? When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which ease tension and make us feel good within ourselves.

All this is very beneficial of course, but if we over-do it, we become addicted to the "feel-good" effect of the endorphins, and we consequently become cranky and stressed if we don't receive them.

It sounds boring, but where exercise is concerned - just like pretty much everything else in life - we can have too much of a good thing. Or not enough.

Which is what I always say about a day spent on the couch. It's time for another one... for the good of my health.

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