Little by little, tentatively and with some considerable care -- because there are a lot of them out there -- the case is being developed.

I want to say up front, that I haven't anything personal against them.

Why, some of my best friends . . . Of course, I'm not at all sure I'd want my daughter to marry one, or become one herself, but I suppose joggers do have a right to do their thing, however inelegant . . .

What's becoming more evident, though, is that jogging may not be the health panacea its afficionados proclaim.

Certainly exercise is important and study after study has suggested that exercise is an element in a long and healthy life.

Nevertheless, it is not the only element and possibly not even the most important element. That one is, most specialists believe today, having forbears who lived long and healthy lives -- godd genetic coding, in other words. And although exercise does seem to lower the risk of a heart attack, it doesn't do it as well as either eliminating smoking or controlling high blood pressure. (And high blood pressure can be somewhat lowered by exercise.)

But not only is jogging not the only form of exercise, it may not be the best for many people.

Moreover, the way some people do it, it is rife with dangers of its own.

There have been a few warnings, but they are half-hearted, at best. (Who wants to take on 30 million joggers?) But even the sports specialists devoted to running concede that the injury rate (practically everybody, sooner or later) is not acceptable.

Most of the problem stems from all that weight being thrust upon a poor foot that really ought to be one of four, rather than one of two.

We (as a species) are barely ready to be walking upright, much less running.

A lot of the problem stems from misconceptions about running. About how, when, how much and how fast to run. About whether to compete. About how much good it will do you.

Bill Burlison, a former congressman from Missouri and now a Washington lawyer, is a dedicated athlete and inveterate jogger. But three years ago he passed out in the middle of a competitive (foot) race and for some hours was believed to have suffered a heart attack. In fact it was heat stroke.

He recalled recently that "I was preparing for a 10,000-meter race and went out the day before and did the distance (6.2 miles) fine. The temperature was only about 60 or 70 degrees. I had never trained for distance running.

"The race the next day was in the afternoon and the heat was about 87. And for the first time in my life I passed out in an athletic contest. I was unconscious for about four hours with a temperature of 107."

Burlison was fine in a day or so and went on to win his congressional campaign that year, if not his race. (He lost his seat in 1980, but is still running in foot races. He'll compete in the Marine Corps Marathon this year, he says.)

What Burlison's case points up is this: Running increases susceptibility to changes in weather, hot or cold. Even training for hot or cold weather running will not guarantee a lack of trouble.

should women run?

Some gynecologists have suggested that it doesn't do to joggle around the female organs the way they get jogged by jogging.

On the other hand, some women jog right through pregnancy with no apparent ill effects to mother or child.

should people with known heart condition run?

There have been a number of studies in which heart patients participate in running programs. At the George Washington University Medical Center, Dr. Pat Gorman headed one such study along with a number of other medical centers in the U.S. The results did not clearly demonstrate reduced mortality among the endurance exercisers, but "we still take the position that the exercise habit is healthful . . . and jogging is as good as any . . . done in moderation." He noted that the one study (in Finland) which did show reduced mortality among exercisers dealt with a so-called multiple intervention group which also was given anti-smoking training, nutrition information and methods for controlling blood pressure, not just exercise. "So while exercise is good," said Gorman, "it showed it should be supplemented with other approaches. I think most of us had that idea right all along."

On the other hand, jogging can be lethal if it is not done sensibly, with a doctor's consultation and, for heart patients, probably with more or less constant medical supervision.

Finally, a sports medicine orthopedist at the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago recently concluded that, in effect, if your body isn't perfect to begin with, whatever is wrong with it will get worse if you jog.

This means things like bunions, imperfectly shaped toes, arches too high or too low, knock knees, bow legs, sway backs.

Even minor joint disorders, ordinarily never noticed, may cause what the specialists now call "overuse syndrome." Better swim. Or ride a bike.

OK, you say, so you're perfect and you love jogging. Well who am I to say no?

Just don't come to my house in your Adidas.