As a marathoner, recent news about the health benefits of running grabbed my attention: for every hour you pound the pavement, you add an extra seven hours to your life, according to new research.
Running has been widely studied for its impact on health, but the new findings dig deeper into how the activity may extend people’s lives. Previously, as little as five minutes of daily running has been associated with longer lifespans. A lot of questions surfaced from that, so researchers reanalyzed data and looked at other large-scale recent studies on exercise and mortality.
Extending Life Expectancy
What they discovered was impressive. Depending on how much you run, you could potentially add about three extra years to your life. Amazingly, this was the case even if people smoked, drank or were overweight. It was also true for those who run slowly or run just once in a while.
It’s unclear why running is better than other forms of exercise for increasing life expectancy. Other types of exercise — such as walking and cycling — do improve life expectancy, but running was shown to improve it the most. Walking, cycling and other activities decreased risk of death by about 12 percent, compared to 40 percent with running.
You don’t have to run marathons to reap the benefit. Incorporating 2 – 4 hours of running per week into your routine is all you need. Make sure to start slowly to avoid getting injured, and gradually build up to more mileage.
It could be that running is best at lowering blood pressure, increasing fitness and reducing extra body fat, especially around the middle. These are common risk factors for early death.
If you’re not sure how to get started, remember it’s okay to walk. Use the run-walk method — do one minute of running for every four minutes of walking, and then gradually increase your running time and decrease your walking time. Stick with it, and you’ll be running two hours per week in no time.
For more resources on health and wellness tips, find a Baylor Scott & White Health Fitness and Wellness Center near you.