Run­ning and longevity

Canadian Running - - ALEX HUTCHINSON - alex hutchin­son

Run­ning is (wait for it) good for you. That con­ven­tional wis­dom has been chal­lenged over the past few years, so it’s worth tak­ing a mo­ment to con­sider a re­cent anal­y­sis of data from more than 55,000 peo­ple col­lected at the Cooper Clinic in Texas over sev­eral decades. The re­sults, pub­lished in the jour­nal Progress in Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Dis­eases, sug­gest that even very mod­est amounts of run­ning – a few times a week, say – adds about three years to av­er­age life ex­pectancy. In fact, the re­searchers cal­cu­late that each hour of run­ning adds seven hours of life­span – though the ben­e­fits tail off at higher train­ing lev­els, mean­ing that you can’t be­come im­mor­tal by run­ning 3.5 hours a day.

Run­ning also seems to be uniquely good for you. “In­ac­tive” run­ners, who ran but didn’t get much other phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, had a 30 per cent lower chance of dy­ing dur­ing the study com­pared to seden­tary peo­ple. In con­trast, ac­tive non-run­ners who met the rec­om­mended min­i­mum level of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity through other forms of ex­er­cise only saw a 12 per cent de­crease. The best group of all, not sur­pris­ingly, was the ac­tive run­ners, who ran reg­u­larly and also par­tic­i­pated in other forms of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Their mor­tal­ity risk dur­ing the study was 43 per cent lower than the seden­tary group.

So at what point do the ben­e­fits tail off ? This is where de­bate has siz­zled in the past few years, with some com­men­ta­tors sug­gest­ing that train­ing for a marathon is bad for your heart. The new anal­y­sis, based on the Cooper Clinic data and other large epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies, finds no ev­i­dence that “too much” run­ning harms your health. Be­yond a cer­tain point, though, you’re not get­ting any fur­ther health ben­e­fits. As a broad gen­er­al­iza­tion, the au­thors sug­gest that thresh­old comes at around 50k per week. That seems plau­si­ble. You can do more, of course, but it should be for a rea­son other than health – like, say, en­joy­ment.

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