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What Williams really emphasizes in his recent studies is the “dose-response” relationship between running and health: the farther and faster you run, the greater the benefits.
But this isn’t a very popular message among public-health advocates, who are struggling to convince people to do any exercise at all, let alone worry about how hard they go, according to WSJ’s Kevin Helliker:
In Dr. Williams’ study of more than 100,000 runners over nearly 20 years, stepped up exercise was found to have some powerful benefits. But his research is controversial. While Dr. Williams is well respected by other exercise scientists, he is shunned by those in the public-health field. Dr. Williams is routinely excluded from committees charged with formulating exercise guidelines, and his grant proposals are often rejected as irrelevant because few exercisers want to hear the word “more.” Public-health officials also worry that touting Dr. Williams’s research could discourage the sedentary from doing any exercise at all, or lure them off the couch with goals too lofty to engender success.
It’s an interesting dilemma, but ultimately I believe in simply telling the truth, even if it makes the message more “complicated.” More exercise is better, and if you’re simply meeting the standard exercise guidelines, you’re leaving a lot of potential benefits on the table:
A number of [Williams’] studies have taken direct aim at current exercise guidelines, by comparing the benefits of mere compliance with the benefits of running far beyond them. A Runners’ Health study published in the journal Stroke last spring found that men and women who ran more than eight kilometers a day had a 60% lower risk of stroke than those who ran at the guideline levels. An article published in September in the journal Atherosclerosis found that those Runners’ Health participants who exceeded guideline levels had a 26% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who ran at guideline levels.