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Runners Live Longer, Have Less Disease Than Average

  • Jessica Berman

All exercise is good for your health, but researchers say running - in particular - may ward off heart disease and other chronic illnesses. And it doesn't seem to matter how far, how fast or even how often you run.

New research analyzing data on more than 55,000 adults found that those who ran regularly - about one-quarter of the group - were significantly less likely than non-runners to die of any form of disease, including heart disease. They also lived, on average, three years longer than non-runners.

Over the course of the 15-year study, more than 3,400 of the participants died. About 1,200 of the deaths were attributed to heart disease, a heart attack or stroke.

D.C. Lee, an assistant professor of kinesiology - or the science of movement - at Iowa State University in Ames, said, “Compared to non-runners, runners showed 30 percent lower risk of death by any causes, including heart attack, stroke or cancer. Also, runners compared to non-runners showed 45 percent lower risk of death by cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.”

Lee and his colleagues found that speed, distance and frequency made little difference in reducing the risk. The runners in the study averaged between 10 and 16 kilometers per hour. Slower runners, and those who only ran once or twice per week, got nearly the same benefit as those who ran faster and further, according to Lee.

“And also we looked at the running over time and we found that persistent runners, over I think six year, they showed the biggest benefits as well,” he said.

Doctors recommend that those up to age 65 do 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise like running for good health.

The researchers note that their study, published in the August issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was based on the participants' responses to questionnaires and lacked complete information on diet, which could have affected the results. Still, they hope their findings will motivate healthy, but sedentary, adults to start running a bit, down the road to a longer life.

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