Does running shorten your life?

I was never really interested in exercising or any sort of physical activity when I was younger, as I spent most days watching TV or playing video games indoors. I began to realize that not being active could be really harmful towards my health, so I decided to start running as a form of exercise. At first, I could barely run a mile without gasping for air or feeling as if I was going to throw up. However, as time passed by, my stamina improved dramatically and I was eventually able to run several miles without stopping. I felt as if I was in the best shape of my life and that all of this running would really pay off in the long run, but I was shocked to discover that this may not be the case.


In a recent study conducted by Dr. Matsumara, co-director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley Network, the long-term effects of running both long and short distances were tested. Researchers who studied this topic earlier proposed that people who run more than 20 miles a week, at a pace of 7.5 mph or higher, will most likely have shorter lifespans.

Matsumara wondered if there were other factors that explained why high-mileage runners were living shorter lives. After looking at the backgrounds and routines of both types of runners, Matsumara discovered that that there were no differences between the two types of runners. There have not yet been findings that give any specific explanations for why high-mileage runners have shorter lifespans, but according to Matsumara, “running fast and far may be toxic to the heart in some way.” Although, some researchers believe that long distance running may lead to the buildup of scar tissue on the heart which can result in the runner developing what is known as “myocardial fibrosis.” Runners suffering from this may experience stiffening of their heart muscles, as well as the premature aging of their heart. However, there is not a sufficient amount of evidence to support this theory, so high-mileage runners shouldn’t worry just yet.


Running is definitely an excellent way to exercise and if running is your choice of exercise then you should absolutely continue to include it as part of your routine. However, people should consider the amount that they run because running excessively could be very harmful to a person’s health. If high-mileage runners ever experience any pain or fatigue, they should cut back immediately and not risk facing the possible consequences.

Works Cited

8 thoughts on “Does running shorten your life?

  1. Andrea Marie Linn

    When I was in high school, I would go to the training room occasionally to get my ankle wrapped for support. There were numerous students in the room that participated in different sports, but I noticed the number of runners were in the room. It was extremely higher than the other sports. I would see them getting their knees wrapped or kids literally chilling in an ice bath. I hear repeatedly that running can ultimately hurt your knees in the long run due to the high intensity of the running and the surface you are running on. stated that people commonly mistake running on softer surfaces rather than harder terrains. When indeed, if you run on softer surfaces your stability decreases. I think it is hard to believe, though, that running at a high intensity will decrease your life. If there isn’t sufficient evidence, no one will listen. It would of been nice if you included a study that had the exact sample size of people, any contributing factors that came into play, etc. to fully back up what Dr. Matsumara researched.

  2. Patrick Emil Jackson

    What an interesting post! As a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get in shape, running is one of the most common forms of exercise for a lot of people. In high school, I ran cross-country and also swam. During cross country season, I found that the high-mileage workouts and constant pounding on my joints resulted in a lot more injuries than during swimming – a lower impact sport. There seems to be a lot of conflicting conclusions on this topic, which makes it great for debate. I looked at the study of 60 marathoners that Chloe posted in a comment below and found the evidence very compelling. However, the sample group used in this study may not be representative of the relatively “less active” group of runners who just run over 20 miles a week. This makes it a more difficult to compare Woods and Dr. Matsumara’s findings. On the other hand, Jacquie Cattanach of describes some of the psychological benefits of running in a recent article. These included boosted confidence levels, relieved stress, and decreased depression – all factors that correlate positively with longer life span. While her post did not compare the effects of long distance running and shorter mileage workouts, this could serve as a great topic for further study.

  3. Olivia Diane Talbot

    This is a really interesting topic, but there could easily be counter arguments! My counter argument is, if the more you run, the shorter your life span is then how does “You’re less likely to suffer from a life threatening heart attack if you’re in shape” make any sense? Runners, especially long distance runners, are very in amazing shape. Doctors tell you to run and to exercise to get into shape, but why would we do this if it is only going to make us have a shorter life? Its all so confusing! Do we run, or do we not run? Which are we more likely to die from? And say a person did die from long distance running…would the cause of death literally be “long distance running”? It just doesn’t make sense!

  4. Ethan Asam

    I read the Boston Globe’s article “How much exercise is too much?” and it concluded that severe exercise like marathon running and 56 mile ski races can damage the human heart after a long period of time when compared with runners who jogged for 2.5 hours a week. This makes a lot of sense but when thinking about recreational running these findings have little meaning. Anything done in excess can be dangerous and running is an exercise that deals directly with your heart so if you stress your heart over a long period of time it only makes sense that you are harming it and possibly shortening your life. One thing this study doesn’t look at is the hearts of marathon and other extreme sports athletes compared to those who don’t exercise. I think normal running is still an efficient form of exercise and it is a great way to stay in shape.

  5. Olivia Yvette Noble

    This was a very interesting post! I would have never thought running could possibly be bad for you. I think more experiments should be conducted to figure these things out. I don’t think this one article would change my mind about running though. My family is full of runners who have great health. Like the article that was posted in the last comment, comparing the benefits and the bad things about running will be a good way to see if its actually really good for you or not. Also of course this always depends on the person, because everyone is different.

  6. Rebecca Sorensen

    This post definitely shocked me as I always turn to running as a form of exercise. I usually hate it and it used to barely be able to run any distance without feeling like I was dying, but like you said, my stamina also increased and it has gotten better with time. However, after reading this, I don’t know if it is something to continue trying to improve on. I have never heard of anything like this before and was surprised while reading it, because it is often that you hear about all the benefits of running and how it is one of the best forms of exercise. This was definitely interesting to find out, and something I will keep in mind from now on when I go to the gym. Here’s an article that talks more about the issue and how much you should be running to stay healthy. Great post!

  7. Chloe Atherton Cullen

    I think this is a very interesting topic as most people lean towards running when they aim to get into shape. I looked into this myself after reading your post. Marissa Wood in 2006 also did a study on 60 marathon runners to track the effects on their hearts before and after the marathon ( She did find that the runners had evidence for “biochemical and echocardiographic evidence of cardiac dysfunction and injury” but it was worse for those who had less training. In an NBC article she suggests there are enzymes “leaking through the heart membrane, which is consistent with significant stress on the heart” ( However she admitted that she herself continues running marathons. More research may need to be done but the science of today suggests that there could be a correlation.

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