Want to live longer? – RUN!

August 18, 2008 by  

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Let’s continue with our Olympics special this week and look at what exercise can do for you.

If you want to stay active and live longer, running seems to be the sports for you. A study showing the health benefits of running is being published this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine report that running can slow down aging and the problems that come with it. The researchers followed up 538 people (50 years old and above) for more than 20 years. 284 of the participants were regular runners and members of a running club. 156 participants were recruited to be controls, non-running members of the university staff and faculty.

And here are the good news:

  • Older people who run are more likely to live longer than non-runners.
  • They enjoy a much longer active and mobile lifestyle.
  • They have fewer disabilities and the first disability occurred 16 years later than non-runners.

Of course, we all can’t run on forever in the same way that we all can’t live forever. When the study started, the running participants ran on the average, 4 hours every week. 21 years later, their running time is down to an average of 76 minutes each week. But the benefits were already in place and long lasting. 34% of non-runners had died within 19 years of follow-up but only 15% mortality was recorded among runners. Runners also tended to be more active and mobile in old age than their non-running counterpart.

Please take note that the studies only based their results on running but not other sports. Running is a so-called aerobic exercise which seems to more beneficial than anaerobic sports such as weight-lifting. It is also safer and less hard on the joins than high impact sports like football or exercises that require unnatural movements like ballet and gymnastics. The concerns that running can lead to osteoporosis at old age seem to be unfounded. There is no significant increase in knee replacement among runners vs non-runners.

The study only looked at older runners, mainly for follow-up time reasons till old age. Exercise however benefits everybody regardless of age.

The authors conclude:

Regular exercise could reduce disability and death risk by increasing cardiovascular fitness, improving aerobic capacity, increased bone mass, lower levels of inflammatory markers, improved response to vaccinations and improved thinking, learning and memory functions.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s go running!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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