Ask Stew: New Runners Study


There are interesting studies done around the world concerning fitness and health and methods to optimally train. Some studies are statistical analyses that show improvement or decline in athletic performance or any other statistic being kept annually. Here is one study that claims there is an overall decline of race running times in the United States.

Hi Stew,

I'm Ivanka Nikolova, Ph.D. in Mathematical Analysis and analyst at I checked your recent articles on about health and running, and felt sure you'd love our study on running times. Basically, we have analyzed 27 million race results from 1996 to 2016. We have found that American runners have never been slower - across 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon races. This is a major health concern.  I did the study with Jens Jakob Andersen, who is a former competitive runner and statistician from Copenhagen Business School. We have a lot of graphs, tables and comments that I'd love to share with your readers as we plan to publish this study in early July on our website.

Our conclusion is that signs of poor health are correlated to the decrease in speed. Though we cannot with certainty say that these are the causes for the slowdown. Best Regards, Vania Nikolova

Dr. Nikolova  – Thanks for thinking of me and, YES, I will check out your study in July on your site when published. I think there are a few issues at hand if you seek my opinion:

1 – Different Strokes - I think with the younger generation are just different. I believe less than a health concern among runners to be honest as there is a growing fad with non-competitive running races in the United States.  

2 – Health Concern - In general – YES, of course we have a health concern.  One-third of our country is obese and over half are overweight.

3 – Kids Are Having Fun - For instance, popular running races like the Color Run – The Happiest Race On The Planet have people running with no winner but they get covered in dye while they run. Or the MuckFest, where the goal is to run, circumvent obstacles, and get really, really muddy!

4 – Participation Awards - The competitive runners are fast and records are still being broken every race – however, the average hobby runner may not care about being competitive and prefer these "participation awards".  The parents of this generation decided that “everybody gets a trophy” when playing recreational sports. Maybe that is enough for most runners?  The issue could be more psychological than physiological.

Runner's World would disagree with the slowest generation proclamation - Check out this article, a refute to the 2013 Wall Street Journal article titled the “Slowest Generation”. What I See Every Day I however, do not deal with the negative images portrayed by the "Slowest Generation / Millennial" comments. I see slivers of the GREATEST GENERATION within these teens and early twenty athletes every day at 6am.These young men and women are preparing themselves for Military, Special Ops, Police, and Fire fighter professions in a world where our military has been at war for 16 years. These super fit and motivated patriots make up a very small percentage of the Millennial Generation but I love 'em. They give me hope for the future.

Also see related article on the topic:


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