The New York City Marathon was held last Sunday 2nd of November and it is a good time to remember Jim Fixx. How many of you recognize the name Jim Fixx? He is the man who is praised for getting Americans to realize that jogging and running are good for your health. He wrote books, appeared on radio and TV shows, gave lectures and started running clinics and clubs. Before Jim Fixx started the running revolution in the States, anyone who was seen running on the streets was looked at rather strangely.
WHY JIM FIXX STARTED HIS RUNNING REVOLUTION
Jim Fixx was born in New York in 1932. He was a man of high intellect and member of MENSA. By the age of 35, he smoked 40 cigarettes a day and weighed 240 lbs (110kg) and knew that he had a hereditary predisposition to heart disease, as his father had died of a heart attack. Fixx pulled a tendon while playing tennis with his sister and decided to start jogging as part of his rehabilitation. He realized that he was beginning to lose weight, and looked and felt better than he had in years. He ran his first 5 km race in 1970 and came last, but the jogging/running bug had kicked in. Fixx stopped smoking, ate what he considered to be a healthy diet and started to lose weight.
‘THE COMPLETE BOOK OF RUNNING’
In 1977, Jim Fixx published ‘The Complete Book of Running’ to coincide with the New York Marathon. It is interesting to note that just over 2,000 people competed in that race, compared with over 50,000 in 2013. Fixx sold over a million copies of his book and the movement spread from the States to the rest of the world. In the introduction he said the purpose of the book was, “…first, to introduce you to the extraordinary world of running, and, second, to change your life.”
CONFLICTING EVIDENCE AT THE TIME
There was much debate at the time as to whether jogging actually improved your health. Jim Fixx said, “…although the evidence is inconclusive, most of it clearly suggests that running more likely increases longevity instead of decreasing it. Research has repeatedly shown that with such endurance training as running, the heart becomes a distinctly more efficient instrument, capable of doing more by working less hard.”
Jim Fixx’s TV appearances always caused amusement when showed everyone his old pants. The new, healthy, muscled and toned Jim Fixx, would have fitted into those pants three times over. His quick wit and intellect enabled him to keep audiences in the palm of his hand.
Very sadly, Jim Fixx died of a heart attack on 20th August 1988, aged 52, while he was out running. Most of the world mourned but there were those who said that Fixx’s death from a heart attack, proved that running/jogging was not good for your health. Many people actually stopped running for a while, as panic spread. Fixx’s previous lifestyle, smoking and being obese, coupled with the fact that his father had died from heart disease, were factors which figured largely in his death. It was found that his arteries were seriously damaged and clogged and that he had had a series of minor heart attacks over the preceding weeks. Running probably extended Jim Fixx’s life rather than shortening it. If he were alive today, he would be sure to insist on the wearing of reflective running vests, reflective cycling vests or reflective belts when out training for added safety.