Are there hidden health risks with jogging?

Miles Frost, the eldest son of Sir David Frost, passed away last weekend whilst out jogging.  Sadlly, Miles was only 31.  What makes this tragic story surprising is that Miles was said to be a fitness enthusiast who had previously run a half-marathon in the Lewa game reserve in Kenya – this is regarded as one of the hardest long-distance challenges due to the heat and high altitude.  The press have reported that Miles Frost didn’t drink, regularly went to the gym and was described as “easy going”. So how could a leisurely run tragically lead to his death?

The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions. Running and jogging  is synonymous with fitness.  If you want to lose weight or commit to a healthier lifestyle – the first thing many of us do is to grab a pair of running shoes.  However, a study earlier in the year found that strenuous runners were as likely to die as those who did no physical activity.

Jogging from 1 to 2 and a half hours per week was associated with the lowest mortality and the optimal frequency of jogging was no more than three times per week. Overall, significantly lower mortality rates were found in those with a slow or moderate jogging pace, while the fast-paced joggers had almost the same mortality risk as the sedentary non-joggers.  So what health risks does jogging pose?

Testosterone

Jogging is a prolonged and casual exercise, and this degree of physical exertion has been proven to lower your testosterone levels. Hormones help regulate our physiology and behaviour, and an imbalance can affect everything from respiration to digestion, metabolism and sensory perception. Exercising more strenuously can affect the body in other adverse ways, so it is important to acknowledge the limits of your own body.

The Immune System

Jogging has the potential to lower the defences of your immune system.  One study found that while shorter runs may raise the effectiveness of your immune system, “prolonged bouts of strenuous exercise cause a temporary depression of various aspects of immune function”. As a result, those jogging for longer than the recommended two to three hours a week are statistically more vulnerable to contagious diseases and illness.

Physical toll

Persistent repetition of a flawed stride may put unwanted pressure on blood vessels, or put misplaced weight onto joints. ‘Runner’s knee’ is a common complaint of the amateur jogger, and can wear down cartilage, reduce your body’s natural shock absortion and generally weaken two of your key joints. The condition can worsen if exercise is pursued regardless and may result in chronic pain attacks and permanent damage.

In conclusion, running or jogging cannot be branded ‘unhealthy’ as it is exercise and therefore will ultimately physically benefit you.  But whilst the NHS recommends 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity jogging per week, it is worth from noting that from joint erosion to a weaker immune system, these side effects may contribute to or aggravate considerably more serious problems. 

MyWellbeingCheck™ from Healthy Performance is an online health assessment tool which provides employees with scores on key lifestyle indicators such as fitness as cardiovascular risk.  Please call the HP Team on 01295 230120 for a free trial.