When did walking three miles become a health risk?

September 6, 2013 by Joshua
in Blog, Fitness, Nature

Speaking of running, as I did yesterday — “More benefits of burpees” — I’ve been meaning to post something I expect will get me in trouble, but I’ll post anyway.

If you run a lot in Central Park you see a lot of five-kilometer run/walks — usually charity events to get people donating for some type of medical research. With all the regalia, I wonder how much money makes it to help people and I feel like health care and drug companies make a lot of money already, but those aren’t my points.

What got me thinking and posting is that these events always have multiple water stops and tell people to “hydrate” plentifully, implying health risks if they don’t. They imply the opposite of people taking responsibility for what seems a modest amount of exercise for even unhealthy people. Responsibility to me means knowing if you can’t walk three miles and figuring out how to handle things yourself if you can’t.

Since when does walking three miles without drinking water risk your health?

Don’t get me wrong. I support safety and I understand the liability risks in holding these events. Gather a few people on a summer day and you risk someone collapsing even if no one raises their pulses. You can get sued. I figure the ambulances they also always have would cover that risk.

Still, sending a message that walking three miles risks your health, it seems to me, discourages people from even such modest exercise. I wonder if it does so enough to worsen people’s health more than this one day of walking helps it. I can’t help but conclude some people see these events and conclude walking a few miles risks their health and put off doing it without visiting a doctor, buying gear, and who knows what else.

I suspect that before cars, a large fraction of adults on the planet walked three miles most days of their lives. I can’t believe we can’t have some legal precedence or standard that says that suggesting people can walk three miles doesn’t make you liable for their dehydration.

While some people exercise to build muscles and compete, I think exercise for most people merely brings them to the regular-life physical condition of the ancestors we inherited our genes from. I imagine over hundreds of thousands of years our bodies evolved so that some level of exercise greater than walking three miles now and then most benefited our health. I think my physical condition is around there — nothing special. Most Americans probably need to exercise more to reach even that level.

I suspect these run/walks with their pseudoscientific “hydrate” jargon and implications of danger in walking three miles worsen people’s health overall. I don’t appreciate anyone implying walking three miles is unhealthy. Or that people for whom it is aren’t responsible enough to know that and take of themselves enough to do it.

Conflicting opinions welcome, as always.

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2 responses on “When did walking three miles become a health risk?

  1. At military basic training, the trainees were told to drink 16 ounces of water every hour. This was to prevent dehydration because their was always that one out of every thousand would go to the hospital for it. I couldn’t drink that much water and it was hurting my bladder. Ignoring your body telling you that you don’t need water is a recipe for hyponatremia.

    • In an organization like the military, the reason for telling people to drink water may have been as much to protect themselves from litigation, figuring too little water was a bigger risk than hyponatremia so why not tell people to drink more?

      Still, with an activity as mature as basic training, which is a lot more than walking three miles, they may have studied and learned needs, so I won’t comment any more than that.

      Except to say that I’ve found drinking when I’m thirsty has worked fine for me.

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