If you follow the work of NY Times Science writer, Gina Kolata, you may be familiar with her book, Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise. In this book, she describes the evolution of exercise and the beginning of the most popular cardiovascular workout on the planet – running. In the early 1970s, experts and the general public, questioned the safety of running because some very “fit,” runners collapsed and died suddenly, despite their avid dedication to a healthy lifestyle that included running.
The media went wild with these stories, as you can imagine, and demonized running in many circles. Experts insisted that the deaths were linked to a genetic predisposition following autopsy, but the technology of the day could not solidify this notion. As the years went by, researchers continued to toy with the impact of running on your health and, Dr. Kenneth Cooper of The Cooper Aerobics Center led the pack. He made running what it is today – a sport enjoyed by many, particularly those who are seeking physical fitness.
And today, running has hit a new milestone – scientific proof that it will add years to your life. A study released last week out of Denmark and soon to be published, revealed that women, who jog regularly, experience a 5.6 year increase in their lifespan over women who do not jog, while men who take a routine jog, live 6.2 years longer than men who do not jog. The risk of death over the course of the 35-year study was reduced by 44 percent in individuals, who participated in jogging.
For avid runners, there is one caveat – moderation is key. The study was analysis of 20,000 people over the course of 35 years – comparing mortality rates of joggers and non-joggers. The data suggests that jogging between 1 and 2.5 hours per week, at a moderate pace, increased the lifespan, while anything more left subjects fairing only slightly better than non-joggers.
If you love running, do not give up the sport for fear it will shorten your lifespan – many other factors can come in to play, especially in a meta-analysis like this one. The study did find that jogging improved many aspects of health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving cardiac function, preventing obesity, and improving psychological function. Proof that running is an ideal sport for preventive health.