You’ve seen them before and you’ll see them again: articles claiming “due to some sort of study, if you do some sort of activity it’ll add X amount of hours/days/weeks/months to your life.”

I mean, are scientists monitoring someone from the second they are born until they die and forcing them to perform one activity more than anything else?

Our latest example: An Hour of Running May Add 7 Hours to Your Life from The New York Times.

A short synopsis of how they came up with this:

“Running may be the single most effective exercise to increase life expectancy, according to a new review and analysis of past research about exercise and premature death. The new study found that, compared to nonrunners, runners tended to live about three additional years, even if they run slowly or sporadically and smoke, drink or are overweight. No other form of exercise that researchers looked at showed comparable impacts on life span.”

Throughout the article, many different strategies were described in detail as to how scientists came up with this number of seven hours added to your life or in the case of the first paragraph, three additional years!

For example:

“Over all, this new review reinforced the findings of the earlier research, the scientists determined. Cumulatively, the data indicated that running, whatever someone’s pace or mileage, dropped a person’s risk of premature death by almost 40 percent, a benefit that held true even when the researchers controlled for smoking, drinking and a history of health problems such as hypertension or obesity.”

Okay so now I have a few questions:

  1. If the researchers are focusing on smoking, drinking, and a history of health problems in people who run vs. don’t run, are they monitoring people for their whole lives? There’s no control group to have legit findings.
    1. I ask this because in order to reduce the risk of premature death by almost 40%, wouldn’t multiple people who both do and don’t run and both do and don’t have histories of smoking and drinking and health problems have to be monitored? That’s just too many factors.
  2. Early on in the first paragraph, they said people who run tend to live about three additional years compared to people who don’t. What are they saying to a group of babies “okay don’t run at all exercise wise for your entire life” and then to a different group “only exercise by running?”
    1. Seriously, how does one determine this number without monitoring people for their whole lives?
  3. The overall theme was that an hour of running may add seven hours to your life so that leads me to this:
    1. When I work out I usually start by running for 20 minutes. I have run three times in the past six days, does that mean my net additional life span is zero because that’s an hour worth of running and an hour worth of not running over those six days? Assuming I would’ve run 20 minutes on each of the days I didn’t run that is.
    2. On top of this, if I go run an hour right now and then don’t tomorrow, am I back to square one?

If we were to go off of this logic that an hour of running adds seven hours to your life, Forrest Gump would have extended his life by 22.43 years (we did the math) based on running for three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours . Yes, Forrest is a fictional character, but it’s not unrealistic for marathon runners to be running as long as the character did over their entire lives. Surely, there’s a limit to how much one actually extends their life by running.

Once again, this running article isn’t the first and it won’t be the last like it. Here are some other crazy articles where my first thought was “HOW ON EARTH DO YOU DETERMINE THAT!?”

People at asked the question of “can adding semen to your smoothie really protect against a cold or flu?”:

  • Honestly, I really don’t care and I don’t want to find out. Also, I’d take a cold over that smoothie.

Someone at SFGate asked if eating popcorn could make it easier or harder to lose weight?

  • Why would you even ask this? This can be applied to any food really. Does eating only vegetables make it easier to lose weight? Yes, of course because it’s healthy. But also if you only eat a stupid amount of vegetables and never do anything but sit and watch TV, you aren’t going to necessarily lose weight. If you eat popcorn and work out an insane amount, you’ll probably lose weight. One food item can’t make it easier or harder it all depends on your motivation to lose weight.

One of my least favorite studies is the X amount of hours of sleep helps you live longer:

  • I’m not going to link to a specific study because these are published all the time. Yes of course getting a good amount of sleep is best for your body and health, but how do you measure this without monitoring and comparing someone who lives their whole life on 5-7 hours vs. 8-10 without them practically living the exact same life?

Stop it with these silly X amount of X activity make you live X amount of hours/days/weeks/months longer please.

[New York Times]

About David Lauterbach

David is a writer for The Comeback. He enjoyed two Men's Basketball Final Four trips for Syracuse before graduating in 2016. If The Office or Game of Thrones is on TV, David will be watching.