Going for a run isn’t something that most Americans like to do, but if more people did it they’d live longer. Up to three years longer, on average, in fact, according to a new study.
The New York Times is reporting that people who run an hour a day can add an additional seven hours to your life, per day.
In fact, going for a daily run is believed to be the most effective way to boost overall life expectancy, a new review and analysis of existing research regarding premature exercise and death has concluded.
“The new study found that, compared to nonrunners, runners tend to live about three additional years, even if they run slowly or sporadically and smoke, drink or are overweight,” the Times reported, citing the findings. “No other form of exercise that researchers looked at showed comparable impacts on life span.” (Related: Read If You Hate Running Sprints, This Study Is For You.)
That would include gym rats who love to lift weights, do aerobics, yoga and crossfit, presumably, based on findings.
Three years ago a group of distinguished research scientists published a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology after analyzing a large body of data collected from the Cooper Institute in Dallas, which had conducted medical and fitness tests on subjects. The analysis of that body of data found that people who only ran five minutes a day had longer lifespans, on average.
Following the release of that study, the scientists were deluged with questions from colleagues and the public, says Duck-chul Lee, a kinesiology professor at Iowa State University, one of the just-released study’s co-authors. Among the queries, scientists and members of the public asked if other physical activities, including walking, were equally beneficial as running was to prolonging life.
Some others wanted to know if running actually did prolong lifespans, the Times noted, in a significant way. “Could it be, they asked rather peevishly, that if, in order to reduce your risk of dying by a year, you had to spend the equivalent of a year’s worth of time on the trails or track, producing no discernible gain?” the paper reported.
That spurred the research team to launch a new study, published in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, aimed at answering these and other questions. In taking a fresh new look at the Cooper Institute data, as well as additional large studies conducted and published in recent years, to determine any correlation between exercise and longer life, Lee and his team found that their earlier conclusions were reinforced.
Taken together, all of the available data indicated clearly that running – no matter the pace or distance ran – diminished a person’s risk of premature death by nearly 40 percent, versus other forms of exercise. And that finding held even for runners who smoked, drank alcohol or had health challenges like high blood pressure or obesity.
The Times noted further:
Using those numbers, the scientists then determined that if every non-runner who had been part of the reviewed studies took up the sport, there would have been 16 percent fewer deaths over all, and 25 percent fewer fatal heart attacks. (One caveat: the participants in those studies were mostly white and middle class.)
The demographics of the study are important to note because the results may not be consistent across ethnicities or for people in different socioeconomic classes. But the results are encouraging, nonetheless. (Related: Read Runners And Foot Injuries: What May Be Causing It.)
One of the more interesting aspects of the most recent study is scientists estimated that running statistically adds more time to a person’s lifespan, hour for hour, than it takes away. In calculating 2 hours of running per week – the average reported by those who participated in the Cooper Institute study – the research team figured that a classic runner spends less than six months actually running over 40 years’ time, but could nevertheless expect to boost life expectancy by 3.2 years, leaving a net gain of 2.8 years.
Thus, they concluded, the time running was well spent.
Researchers found that other forms of exercise, including walking, biking and aerobics – provided they involved the same degree of exertion – also cut the risk of premature death by some 12 percent.