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Will Running 1 Mile a Day With Zuckerberg Actually Make You Healthier?

Mark Zuckerberg's foolproof strategy to get everyone to run more

Will Running 1 Mile a Day With Zuckerberg Actually Make You Healthier?

Run a mile a day (with one day off for leap year!) in 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Facebook

To kick off the new year, the Facebook CEO started a public group called A Year of Running. In a post to his personal page that included a pic of him and a couple other Facebook execs plodding along, smartphones in hand, Zuckerberg challenged his 47 million followers to run 365 miles in 2016. 

“This is a lot of running, but it’s not a crazy amount,” he wrote. “It’s a mile a day, and at a moderate pace it’s less than 10 minutes of running per day.” 

Although I’m sure thousands of others have already beaten me to the punch, I need to take what will likely be my only opportunity to correct “Zuck” in matters of numerical precision. 2016 is a leap year and has 366 days. So, technically...

As for the nature of the challenge, it’s true that one mile a day is not a crazy amount. Most of those who self-identify as runners will already do far more than that. Hence, there’s some irony in that this running challenge is actually addressed at non-runners. (If you’re a runner and, for whatever reason, feel left out, I can recommend Adam Goucher’s Run the Edge virtual challenge, which sets the bar at a more ambitious 2016 miles in 2016.)

In challenging 47 million followers to a mile a day, Zuckerberg is implicitly assuming that there are far, far more non-runners than there are runners. And of course he’s right; I don’t have statistical evidence for this, but I think in this case the burden of proof would lie with anyone claiming the opposite. 

Providing an achievable goal for those starting from scratch is commendable—although some have argued that a sub-10-minute-mile is too quick for a total novice–and bolstered by the fact that several studies in recent years have suggested that very moderate amounts of exercise can have significant health benefits. 

Not all of these studies are equally valid, as I’ve argued before, but some are worth paying attention to. 

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology about the association of running with mortality had a pool size of 55,137, adults ages 18 to 100, and, over a 15-year period, almost 3,500 deaths to “work with.” Compared to non-runners, the study found that runners had a 30 percent lower adjusted risk of all-cause mortality and a 45 percent lower adjusted risk of cardiovascular mortality. Most significantly, the benefits seemed evenly distributed among runners of all levels, from the sub-6-minue-mile super jocks to the Mark Zuckerbergs.

The study concluded that: “Running, even 5 to 10 [sic] min/day and at slow speeds <6 miles/h, is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease. This study may motivate healthy but sedentary individuals to begin and continue running for substantial and attainable mortality benefits.”

Zuckerberg’s challenge might have the same effect. And there’s no shame in “liking” that.

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