I like Runners World. Really I do. Each month when I receive it I promptly flip to the back and read "I'm a Runner". I love reading about the celebrities running (as long as its not Katie Holmes running her 5 hour marathon and making news) I read the questions and answer sections and many of the articles. The articles about studies though really need to be taken with a grain of salt. My blog post back in August about the Heat is On, talked a little about the unreliability of the statistics in Runners World. This month (February 2011, page 43), there is a whole page of confusing statistics.
First of all, to really understand statistics you need to see the whole study. Who is in the test group and how many. How long did the study run? Next, pulling numbers out of the results and throwing it at us is useless.
Let's start with the first one.
Look Ahead - people who run more than 35 miles a week are 54% less likely to suffer age-related vision loss than those who cover 10 miles a week. Ok, since I run about 30 miles a week do I fall in the 36% range? At what age is it age-related vision loss? During what ages did I need to run the 35 miles a week? I'm 41 and need some eye correction so is from not running enough? Did I miss the boat and need to run 35 miles in my 30's? Or am I ahead of the game and it's in the 50's? Is the vision loss near sighted loss or far sighted? What about the people who are couch potatoes and have perfect vision? How do they fit into the study?
Keep the Beat - Runners who log a weekly run of 10 miles (or more) are 39% less likely to use high-blood pressure meds and 34% less likely to need cholesterol meds compared with those who don't go farther than 3 miles. I know a number of runners, and good runners too, that take meds for those conditions. It's hereditary. I have high cholesterol but I'm not on meds. I had to laugh when the nurse told me the 205 was a little high and diet and exercise would help with that. First of all, it was down from 270. Second, how much more exercise did she want me to fit it above the 30 miles a week I was running?
Function Well - Men who burn at least 3000 calories per week (about 5 hours of running) are 83% less likely to have severe erectile dysfunction. Like men are going to be honest in this study? I'm sure the makers of Viagra don't want this "secret" to get out there.
Sleep Tight - Insomniacs fell asleep in 17 minutes on days they ran, compared to 38 minutes on days they didn't. They also slept for an extra hour on days they exercised. Maybe I'm an outlier but this doesn't hold true for me at all. Does this ring true for you? And if I'm truly training, I get less sleep because I need to get up early to get those runs in. If it were true, I wouldn't wake up on my own at 4:30am and not be able to fall back asleep.
Live Longer - A review of 22 studies found that people who work out 2.5 hours a week are 19% less likely to die prematurely than those who don't exercise. A separate study found that active people have a 50% lower risk of premature death. Poor John had to listen to me rant about this one. I did a quick Google search to try and find out at what age is considered premature and found nothing. Is 40 premature? 50? 60? And a review of studies???? They looked at other studies and pulled out information to support whatever their theory was. What are the conditions that are considered premature death reasons? If someone dies at 25 because of a car accident is that counted in the study?
Isn't there some movie that talks about throwing out a number...15%, so it makes whatever you're talking about to sound more legit? 24.9% of the reader of my blog run 15 miles or more a week. 58% of the readers love cats and own 2.3 cats of their own. See how much smarter I sound?
I don't doubt that running helps us live longer and keeps us healthier. It is great there are studies and even having Runners World report on them makes me think about the studies, ponder the studies and even rant about the "results". These articles are just snippets of studies (which aren't noted and referenced if you really did want to find the study) and I think of these as something told in the game of telephone that are so distorted by time we see it that we don't know the true meaning of them.
What are your thoughts on the studies seen in magazines?