"...From this database, the researchers chose the records of 55,137 healthy men and women ages 18 to 100 who had visited the clinic at least 15 years before the start of the study. Of this group, 24 percent identified themselves as runners, although their typical mileage and pace varied widely.
"The researchers then checked death records for these adults. In the intervening 15 or so years, almost 3,500 had died, many from heart disease.
Running towards a longer life.
"But the runners were much less susceptible than the nonrunners. The runners’ risk of dying from any cause was 30 percent lower than that for the nonrunners, and their risk of dying from heart disease was 45 percent lower than for nonrunners, even when the researchers adjusted for being overweight or for smoking (although not many of the runners smoked). And even overweight smokers who ran were less likely to die prematurely than people who did not run, whatever their weight or smoking habits.
"As a group, runners gained about three extra years of life compared with those adults who never ran...." (Top link is to the NY Times account, here's the actual study.)This is consistent with the Stanford Running Study, which I blogged about several years ago. They found that even people who ran for a period and then stopped enjoyed the same benefits, for the rest of their lives:
"Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least, including people running as little as five or 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower."The study did not directly examine how and why running affected the risk of premature death, he said, or whether running was the only exercise that provided such benefits. The researchers did find that in general, runners had less risk of dying than people who engaged in more moderate activities such as walking.
"But “there’s not necessarily something magical about running, per se,” Dr. Church said. Instead, it’s likely that exercise intensity is the key to improving longevity, he said, adding, “Running just happens to be the most convenient way for most people to exercise intensely.”
"Anyone who has never run in the past or has health issues should, of course, consult a doctor before starting a running program, Dr. Church said. And if, after trying for a solid five minutes, you’re just not enjoying running, switch activities, he added. Jump rope. Vigorously pedal a stationary bike. Or choose any other strenuous activity. Five minutes of taxing effort might add years to your life."The SRC, however, suggest that there is something unique about running, that other vigorous activities do not provide the same benefit as running does.
"Differences between runners and controls for all outcomes continued to diverge after 21 years of follow-up. Interestingly, in our analysis of 21 years of data, aerobic exercise was no longer a statistically significant independent predictor of mortality. Sixty percent of deaths occurred during the 8-year period between our last report and the present analysis, and it is possible that with this additional mortality data, vigorous exercise has become more collinear with running and no longer is identified as an independent predictor of death. Further observation of this cohort, as the remaining 440 participants reach the biological limits of life expectancy, may be required to further clarify the independent role of nonrunning, vigorous exercise."I'll keep running. And I'll keep doing other stuff, for the fun of it.