Bitching and Whining – “Jogging outside could make you stupid – and more likely to suffer mental health problems”

So, I’m annoyed with a news story. After taking a laziness break post Skyfall, I’m back.

This is the the story in question, originally in the Daily Mail – posted a week after the information was released in the form of a paragraph long press release – suggests that exercising outdoors makes you stupid and is bad for you.

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The press release in question doesn’t cite the original scientific paper and doesn’t describe its methods. In fact, I can find no sign of this paper other than the padded press releases in the Daily Mail and Men’s Health. According to the Mail, the Belgian authors of the study looked at the differences between people who walk and/or run outside in a city between noon and 1pm 3 times a week and those taking outdoor exercise in rural areas.

The problem is not that you are outside or that you are exercising, but the pollutants. Exercise, no matter where you do it, is good for you, most people don’t exercise outside in a city; most of us are able to run in quieter areas, parks, away from traffic. Running remains one of the cheapest methods of exercise – costing little more than a pair of shoes.

Gym memberships are comparatively expensive – most being rather cagy about their prices on their websites. It seems to me that the Mail are playing to their middle class housewife readership, those with the disposable income for gym memberships, reinforcing the opinion that simply running outside is not good enough. It’s a lazy, poorly researched piece of fluff, framed as a scare story and frankly, a non-story.

What the Belgian researchers seem to say is that pollution is the problem, and this can be somewhat alleviated by running in a park, or in weather conditions that dissipate pollutants such as rain and wind. Surely the more worrying aspect is that walking outside for a significant length of time is going to expose you to pollutants that impair cognitive ability and raise markers of inflammation.

If you are a runner, don’t let this shoddily subbed piece of journalism put you off going outside. I have had gym memberships, and I have run outside; I have joined and left four gyms. And yet I have been running on and off, injuries permitting, for 15 years. I know which I prefer, but then I don’t have to run in a city.

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