Ignore the noise

Two weeks ago, there was an editorial in a respected journal in which the author, using misleading statistics, tried to make the argument that too much long-distance running is bad for you. Being an editorial, the work was not peer-reviewed and thus should be given very little weight in the grand scheme of cardiovascular science. Of course, our oh so helpful media grabbed the editorial and ran with it (pun very much intended). The end result is a steady stream of “Hey, did you see this?? What’d you think about this?” e-mails in my inbox. All were deleted.

I will not link the article, nor will I link articles about the article, because there is absolutely no need to read it. The same thing comes out every year. It’s concern-trolling at its finest. Case in point: Slowtwitch didn’t even both responding to the new article, but rather just reposted a much more interesting article they wrote in February 2000 [<= not a typo].

Here’s what I will do for you: I will provide you with all the statistics you need to know about heart problems. It’s just two numbers: 505,000 and 90,000,000.

In 2010, 505,000 runners finished a marathon in the United States.

In 2010, 90,000,000 people in the United States were classified as obese by the CDC.

Even if each of the 505,000 is a US resident and a repeat, over-trained marathoner, one of these problem is 180 times worse than the other.

Raise your hand if you think the hearts of the 505,000 runners are more unhealthy than the 90,000,000 obese Americans. Now raise your other hand if you think these runners’ hearts are a major, pressing problem for our society.

That’s what I thought.


About siegfried

just a runner. kinda a triathlete. and a big couch sitter.
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3 Responses to Ignore the noise

  1. Jeff says:

    I agree with you about the editorial, it was a manipulative piece that was pretty much crap and perverted even more by the media. And it is possible that many of the 505,000 that completed a marathon are healthier than 90 million obese.

    However, are you making the assumption that if some of the 90 million obese ran a marathon, then there wouldn’t be an issue with their obesity? Granted, they would probably be healthier with the increased activity. But if obesity (BMI/weight) is your criterion for good health, training and completing a marathon isn’t going to do much good in losing weight for most people. Some may have drastic lifestyle changes that involve modifying behaviors and eating habits, but most are going to be one and done (if they can even complete the cycle/race) and continue to eat the same way (or even more believing it is justified by the running). I’m also not ready to assume that the 505,000 are healthier because they completed a marathon. Marathoners are often self selecting; they run a marathon because they are already healthy enough to do it already.

    • siegfried says:

      My glib final comment aside, my premise was actually supposed to be the opposite: assume that a running a multiple marathons is as bad for your heart as being obese (actual conclusion from the editorial). Which problem should be written about and publicized? The one with half a million or the one with 180x more?

      I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about little problems (for god’s sake I’m a scientist!); I’m saying we should care a bit more about REALLY REALLY BIG problems of epidemic proportions.

  2. Pingback: Monday Runday 12/17 | tongue in chic

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