Why Jogging Was So Dangerous In The 70s

"Keith Richards outlived Jim Fixx, the runner and health-nut dude. The plot thickens." - Bill Hicks.

Tom Hanks Forrest Gump

These days it is an accepted aspect of life that exercise is vital for our health. Gyms are practically on every street corner, groups of runners regularly put in work along roads and parks, and fitness apps are abundant on our phones and tablets. Humans have always been physically active. It used to be part of the day whether hunting, farming, or enjoying bodily pleasure with other people. When work began to move into cities however, a sedentary lifestyle became more common.

To combat this change in the way we live our lives, the media was quick to respond. Long running popular sports magazine Sports Illustrated released an article warning of the dangers of remaining immobile. Warning that unless a change in habits was made, the heart and organs will slowly deteriorate due to disuse, SI urged its readers to take up exercise in 1955.

Pastimes such as bowling were at peak popularity in the US during this time, and it was seen as unhealthy to over-exert oneself. The advice took years to be heeded.

In 1968, Kenneth Cooper, a cardiologist and former Colonel of the US Air Force, released a book entitled, ‘Aerobics.’ In the book, which became instrumental in the rise of jogging, Cooper encourages readers to eat ‘real food,’ and to perform aerobic exercises to increase life expectancy. The main exercises recommended by Cooper were cycling, swimming, and running.

Running was a vital part of any athlete or soldier’s regimen. Running has long been publicised with soldier’s initial training, and boxers such as Muhammad Ali would regularly include ‘roadwork’ into his schedule before an upcoming title bout. Waking up at the crack of dawn to ‘fill up his gas tank,’ Ali saw running as a vital part of his longevity.

However, as Ali was a well-known boxer, with a life far from normal, his running wasn’t seen as anything worth repeating by the public. The average American wasn’t interested.


I am a freelance writer with an interest in wrestling, culture, music, podcasts and literature. Currently working in projects involving creative regeneration.