The national Press is not good for your health . . .

As we report this week, Team Congleton has been successful in winning funding to get people more active.
Coupled with Robbie Brightwell’s Twin Assassins campaign, town leaders are sending out all the right messages: do more, eat less sugar and fat.

Sadly, the national media’s reporting of health is patchy at best, whether it’s newspapers simply getting it wrong or making it up for the sake of a good headline. It surely must counter some of the Team Congleton message.

As the Chronicle went to Press, there were headlines such as “Too much jogging as bad as no exercise at all” — fuel for those who don’t want to exercise to put things off even more.

Even common sense might tell you that this sounds a little flawed (what’s “too much”? What are the factors that make some people run more than others?).

As always, our first port of call was the NHS’s excellent “Behind the Headlines” service on its website, which analyses — usually critically — health stories.

Predictably, the results of the study cited in the “too much jogging” story were “not as clear-cut as the media has made out,” said the NHS.

The study involved about 1,500 people in Denmark and found that light to moderate jogging was associated with living longer compared with being sedentary; strenuous jogging was not.

However, a major limitation was that the sample size was small, particularly for the most active runners. Small numbers mean analysis is less able to detect real differences.

The NHS said that The Daily Telegraph’s headline “Fast running is as deadly as sitting on couch” was “too sensationalist” given the limitations to the study. BBC News and the Daily Mail made the journalistic sin of stating “too much of x is bad for you”, which the NHS called “an entirely uninformative statement of the obvious”.

Too much of anything is bad for you.

And the study did not answer our own question: it does not conclusively say how much is too much.
Said the NHS: “The study does not impact the current physical activity recommendations for adults.”

For what it’s worth, the study found that jogging up to 2.5 hours in total a week, over up to three sessions, at a slow or average pace, was associated with the lowest risk of death during follow-up.

If everyone did that, health levels in this country would soar, never mind worrying what is “too much”: the study found that joggers tended have lower blood pressure and body mass index, and be less likely to smoke or have diabetes.
Health stories generally should be treated with a pinch of salt, though the media is not always to blame. The recent story about a high percentage of cancer being down to chance came with a misleading Press release — journalists reported fairly accurately what this said.

The problem was with the study, which appears to have been confused. The NHS analysis said that the survey showed that only four out of 10 cancers could be a result of bad luck, or, alternatively, as many as eight out of 10. The BBC said the figures made no sense and the researchers themselves are apparently being force to write a paper explaining what they really meant.

The message would seem to be: carry on as you were. A lifestyle choice to help reduce the chance of getting cancer.
As we say, health stories generally should be treated with a pinch of salt but the Daily Mail saves you the effort of checking up — you can fairly safely assume they’re hugely inaccurate.

So it’s bad news if you believed the Daily Mail when it said “one third of pensioners have sex at least twice a month” — the survey did not cover only pensioners but people aged 50 and over, and the newspaper ignored the fact that many participants expressed concerns about sex, not just the frequency of their sexual activity.

Another recent Mail story — that shell shock had been “solved” — was not true. “Shell shock has not been ‘solved’, as the Mail Online would have us believe,” said the NHS.

To go back to the original point: jogging is good for you.
Exercise is good for you.
Healthy food (ie not processed) and losing weight are good for you.

On the other hand, believing what you read in the national Press is bad for you.

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