Regular moderate intensity running increases the life expectancy of men by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years, reveals 2012 data from the Copenhagen City Heart study. This is not surprising, as we know that low aerobic capacity is the most powerful risk factor for early death, as well as a predictor of who will end up in long term care.
The study's most recent analysis demonstrates that between one and two-and-a-half hours of running per week at a "slow or average" pace delivers optimum benefits for longevity. "The results of our research allow us to definitively answer the question of whether running is good for your health," said the study lead, who is chief cardiologist of the Copenhagen City Heart Study. "We can say with certainty that regular running increases longevity. The good news is that you don't actually need to do that much to reap the benefits." The debate over running first kicked off in the 1970s with the start of the "running craze". The Copenhagen City Heart study, which started 1976, is a prospective cardiovascular population study of around 20,000 men and women aged between 20 to 93 years. The study, which made use of the Copenhagen Population Register, set out to increase knowledge about prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Since then the study, which has resulted in publication of over 750 papers, has expanded to include other diseases such as heart failure, pulmonary diseases, allergy, epilepsy, dementia, sleep-apnea and genetics. The investigators have explored the associations for longevity with different forms of exercise and other factors. For the running sub-study, the mortality of 1,116 male joggers and 762 female runners was compared to the non runners in the main study population. All participants were asked to answer questions about the amount of time they spent running each week, and to rate their own perceptions of pace (defined as slow, average, and fast). Analysis showed that risk of death was reduced by 44% for male runners, and 44% for female runners.
Furthermore, the data showed runners produced an age adjusted survival benefit of 6.2 years in men and 5.6 years in women. Further analysis exploring the amounts of exercise undertaken by runners in the study has revealed a u-shaped curve for the relationship between the time spent exercising and mortality. The investigators found that between one hour and two and a half hours a week, undertaken over two to three sessions, delivered the optimum benefits, especially when performed at a slow or average pace. The relationship appears much like alcohol intake, in that mortality was lower in people who reported moderate running, than in non-runners or those undertaking extreme levels of exercise. The ideal pace can be achieved by striving to feel a little breathless.
Running delivers multiple health benefits. It improves oxygen uptake, increases insulin sensitivity, improves lipid profiles (raising HDL and lowering triglycerides), lowers blood pressure, reduces platelet aggregation, increases fibrinolytic activity, improves cardiac function, bone density, immune function, reduces inflammation markers, prevents obesity, and improves psychological function. Most importantly, you do not have to run fast at all to derive these benefits!
Give it a try, even for 5 minutes to start - you may be pleasantly surprised.
From Science Daily, 3 May 2012. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503104327.htm.