Surprise Findings: Running Holds Off Much Of Normal Aging
A surprising number of benefits, including an extended lifespan, are gained by running only 6 miles –or 52 minutes total– per week.
Top researchers came to unexpected conclusions when they reviewed and collated several in-depth studies of runners and the effects of running on their health, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
They did confirm the expected benefits of running, like improving weight management, blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, lowering risk of some cancers, respiratory disease, stroke, benign prostatic hypertrophy and cardiovascular and general mortality.
But it’s the unexpected benefits making news:
- Running is associated with lower rates of osteoarthritis (arthritis) and hip replacement, not higher rates.
- The older a runner gets, the greater their advantage compared to non-runners of the same age–running strengthens the musculoskeletal system over time, it doesn’t break it down.
- Only 52 minutes of running each week was associated with an extended lifespan–living 3-6 years longer than non-runners.
- 1 minute of running offers the benefits of 3-4 minutes of walking briskly, since running is a vigorous activity.
- Running more than 20 miles per week may actually increase cardiovascular and general mortality rates.
The last item is a seeming paradox that researchers “cardiotoxicity.”
“We’re not trying to scare anyone [by finding that running more than 20 miles per week may contribute to higher mortality rates],” said Chip Lavie, M.D., the lead author. “We just think athletes and their clinicians should be informed. The chance of a very serious risk is probably small.”
The paper notes that 52 minutes of running per week is less than the U.S. government guidelines, which recommend 75 weekly minutes of vigorous activity like running.
According to the current guidelines, one minute of running is equivalent to two minutes of light exercise like walking. The new paper’s authors find that the correct ratio is more like 1:3 or 1:4. That is, one minute of running is worth three to four minutes of walking. This is true because running is a very vigorous exercise, even at paces of 10:00 to 12:00 minutes per mile. In addition, some health researchers say, many walkers move along too slowly to get optimal benefits from walking.
In their conclusion, the authors write, “The overall benefits of running far outweigh the risk for most individuals, and are associated with considerable protection against chronic diseases and CVD [heart] and all-cause mortality.”
The Mayo summary gained most of its data from 18 reports from the National Runners Health Study, as well as the National Running Aging Study, the Copenhagen City Heart Study, and the Aerobic Center Longitudinal Study’s Running Report.
(Many thanks to Runner’s World for its original article and to youqueen.com for the image.)
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