It’s the eternal argument: How do we get the benefits while minimizing the risks?

For those of us in middle age, I think this article at by Helen Hobson brings reason to the debate.

Dr. Arthur Siegel, who is chief of internal medicine at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, has studied non-elite Boston Marathon runners and reports the following.

  • While “marathon running is an overdose of a good thing,” moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health.
  • “If you’re a middle-aged person at risk for coronary problems, you should probably do the training and skip the race.”
  • “While immunity goes up when you work out for less than about 90 minutes, after a marathon, runners are about 6 times as likely to get sick as folks who didn’t race. The long-term consequences of this immune-system suppression aren’t clear.”

OK, but where’s the middle ground?

Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, has a recommendation for the rest of us.

  • “Walk vigorously 30 minutes a day.
  • Quadrupling or quintupling Thompson’s daily prescription isn’t going to similarly increase your chances of better health and, if you’re not careful it could increase the risk for other problems.
  • “It drastically cuts your chances of heart problems over the long term, not to mention… other health benefits, from staving off obesity to preventing osteoporosis and possibly cancer.”

My recommendation?

  • Start by buying a good pair of walking shoes.

5/19/07 15:39 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.