Monday, 20 April 2009

Running makes you live longer

Over 26 000 people are currently running the Boston Marathon (congratulations!), so this post will appropriately deal with running!

A 2008 study followed 284 runners and 156 controls, all over the age of 50 at baseline, for 21 years and found that elderly runners lived longer and had less disabilities than non-runners.

At the beginning of the study, the runners ran an average of about four hours a week and were younger, leaner and less likely to smoke compared to the controls.

After 21 years, their running time declined to an average of 76 minutes per week but health benefits were still apparent.

After 19 years, 34% of control had died compared to only 15% of runners!

Running has often been blamed for causing knee problems and osteoarthritis over time. The same researchers published a companion paper showing that running was not associated with greater rates of osteoarthritis and did not require more total knee replacements than nonrunners. On average both groups in the study became more disabled after 21 years of aging, but for runners the onset of disability started 16 years later than nonrunners.

What surprised the authors even more was that the gap between the physical abilities between runners and nonrunner kept increasing, even as the subjects entered their 90s. The authors speculate that this is a result of the runners' healthier habits and lower BMIs.

Bottom line:
Vigorous exercise (running) at middle and older ages is associated with reduced disability in later life and a notable survival advantage.


Sweta said...

This is good info-any info w.r.t running on the road/hard surfaces harming the knees? I know a lot of people who avoid training for the marathon because it's on the road(they would have joined if it was on the beach)!

Anonymous said...

I've just found your blog and LOVE all the information. thank you so much!

I've been exercising every day doing yoga/pilates 2hrs total / high-intensity jump rope for 10 min. I was wondering if that's too much?

I am always afraid that I'm not getting in enough exercise.

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks Sweta!

Running a marathon on sand?! Maybe easier on the knees but tough on the rest of the body!!

According to the authors' other paper (using the same subjects), long distance running among healthy older individuals (baseline of 50 yrs old and followed for 21 years) wasn't associated with knee injuries or osteoarthritis. I don't believe they included on what surface the runners ran on though...

In a recent review of the literature, researchers from Boston and Germany, reviewed existing studies on the relationship between regular intense exercise and osteoarthritis (OA) and concluded that in the absence of existing joint injury there is no increased risk of OA from exercise.

However, elite athletes had an increased risk on injury and increased risk of OA in the damaged joint. Probably due to over-use rather than exercise surface though.

The largest modifiable risk factor for knee OA is body weight- each additional kilogram of body mass increases the compressive load over the knee by roughly 4kg.


Wiley-Blackwell. "Exercise No Danger For Joints: Non-Elite Level Activity Does Not Increase Risk Of Osteoarthritis, Review Suggests." ScienceDaily 30 January 2009.

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks blueskyworld!

Although 2hrs of yoga pilates/ 10mins jumping rope is more exercise than the majority of people, in my opinion, it isn't excessive... however, if you're overtired, losing weight, dread exercising or feel preoccupied by it, have any injuries or pain it may be too much for you. If you feel good at the end of the day, it's great!

Why do you worry you're not doing enough exercise?

The American College of Sport Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend a minimum of:

Moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week
Or Vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
8-10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

However, they emphasize that more is better.

During the moderate intensity cardio, you should be breathing hard while still being able to carry on a conversation, and you should be sweating.

Your yoga and pilates probably falls under resistance exercise whereas your rope skipping would be more cardio. In order to get the benefits of aerobic exercise, you should do it for a min of 10 minutes continuously... which you do!

If you're worried you're not getting enough cardio, you could always increase your rope skipping (or do another aerobic activity you enjoy) to 20 minutes and do a bit less yoga/pilates...

Thanks again for reading and for your comment!