Comebacks To The Most Common Negative Comments

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Scientifically-backed comebacks for your non-running friends' negative remarks. Comebacks To The Most Common Negative Comments

A passion for running can be hard to explain. And it’s particularly hard to explain to non-runners. Yes, getting out of bed early is hard. Yet we do it with a smile for the sake of a run. Running in the freezing cold is hard. Yet we bundle up and head out anyway. And running often sucks (a great deal!), yet we keep at it week in and week out. So how do you explain this to a non-runner? And, more importantly, how do you nip their unsolicited negative comments in the bud? Because if there’s one thing that non-runners appear to be experts in, it’s reasons not to run!

Here are some scientifically-backed comebacks to three of the most commonly used negative remarks from non-runners. Hopefully it will shut up your critics for good!

Negative Comment #1: “Running is bad for your knees”

We’ve all heard this one a thousand times. Because if running puts excess pressure on your knees, a lot of running must be bad, right? Wrong. In a 2013 study of nearly 75 000 runners, it was found that (amateur) running significantly reduced the instance of osteoarthritis and risk of hip replacement. It is believed that this is, in part, a result of running’s general association with a lower body mass index (BMI). In addition, this study also found that running may be preferable to other forms of exercise in lowering the instance of osteoarthritis and risk of hip replacement.

And what about the pros? Well, a small, retrospective study published in 1990 found that a lifetime of long-distance running is not associated with premature osteoarthritis in the lower limbs. And while there certainly is some conflicting data, medical literature, in general, does not support the notion that there is an association between running and osteoarthritis.

So why then do so many runners suffer knee injuries and niggles? The following factors appear to be to blame:

  • Poor running form
  • Too much, too soon
  • Over-training
  • The wrong running shoes for your foot-type
  • Not listening to your body
  • Not taking action immediately upon noticing a niggle

So save your knees and run smart.

Negative Comment #2: “Running is bad for your heart”

There’s no denying the fact that consistent running changes a person’s heart and its functioning. A larger heart muscle and lower resting heart rate are just two phenomena commonly found in long-time runners. Less clear-cut, however, is whether these changes are ultimately good or bad. A heated and ongoing debate on the matter, fueled by a number of sudden deaths at endurance running events in recent years, appears to have given non-runners just the motivation they needed to stay on the couch. But is this really justified? Is running really bad for your heart?

While the debate is far from over, a symposium at the 2016 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) meeting shed some positive light on the topic. Dr Paul Williams, a biostatistician who has been conducting research on 156 000 runners since the early 1990s, has to date published more than 65 papers on the effect of running on various conditions, including diabetes, strokes, Alzheimers, breast cancer and coronary heart disease. And in almost every instance, the impact of running on these conditions had been positive.

And while consensus has not yet been reached on how much running to do to in order to reap the maximum benefits, the current understanding is that no amount of running is worse for your heart than not running at all. In fact, runners appear to be 45% less likely to succumb to heart-related causes than non-runners of the same age.

It’s important to note, though, that certain genetic defects may put you at risk. So if you are older, or have known risk factors for heart disease, rather play it safe and go for an exercise stress test and coronary artery calcium testing just to be sure.

Negative Comment #3: “Why do you run if no one’s chasing you?”

Why do we run? Well, in the words of octogenarian runner, Gordon Booth: How can we not run?! There is a wealth of scientific literature on the perks of running. And while it is impossible to list all of them here, here are a few to get you started:

  • Running is good for your mental health. Recent studies have shown that physical activity can be used to effectively manage mild and moderate mental conditions, including depression and anxiety. Running can benefit individuals suffering from these conditions in a number of both direct and indirect ways, including the release of feel-good hormones, improved sleep, increased appetite, boosted confidence and better connection with others.   
  • Running increases longevity. A 2012 study detailed in PLOS Medicine found that physical activity during your spare time results in a lower mortality risk. And even better news is that this is true for absolutely everyone, including smokers, heart disease patients and cancer survivors. This study also found that activity below the recommended minimum level is beneficial as well. So there really is no excuse for not moving!
  • Running improves brain function and memory. Scientists from the University of British Colombia found that regular aerobic exercise improves memory and thinking skills in a number of direct and indirect ways. While it appears to increase the size of the hippocampus of the brain, thereby positively impacting on a number of physiological processes, it also indirectly boosts brain function. This is done through improved sleep, boosted mood and decreased stress and anxiety.
  • Running boosts the cardiovascular and brain development of unborn children. A recent study performed at the University of Montreal found that the infants of active moms showed signs of increased brain development. In addition, the cardiovascular systems of babies born to active moms are more robust from an earlier age when compared to that of sedentary moms.
The takeaway

So while it’s good to arm yourself with solid, scientifically-backed knowledge to support your passion for running, don’t let the negative comments of non-runners dampen your enthusiasm. They’ll probably keep on yanking your chain despite hearing the facts. Sometimes the best comeback is just to smile, keep on running and keep on reaping the benefits!


  1. Karien Potgieter, Running strong at age 80, Online publication
  2. Alex Hutchinson, The runner's heart, Runner's World Magazine (Australia & New Zealand Edition)
  3. Tom DiChiara, Does running damage your knees?, Online publication
  4. P.T. Williams, Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk, Scientific journal
  5. Karin Katz, MD, Does running cause knee osteoarthritis?, Online publication
  6. Lars Konradsen, et al., Long distance running and osteoarthritis, Scientific journal
  7. S.E. Wallick, MD & P.A. Hansen, MD, Running and osteoarthritis, Scientific journal