RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — We all know that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Running and other activities can reduce risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Now a new study indicates that running may be the most effective exercise to actually extend your lifespan.
1. Tell us about this new study
In this new study, researchers took a look at data from thousands of patients (and multiple studies on exercise and lifespan) and found that when compared to non-runners, runners tended to live about three additional years. This effect was true even if the runners ran slowly and sporadically. No other type of exercise that researchers looked at showed this type of impact on life span.
The running was directly related to an extension of life—for every one hour spent running, seven hours were gained. There did seem to be a cap to the benefit—the most extension in life one could gain was 3 years.
In addition, researchers found that running—no matter how fast or how far, dropped a person’s risk of premature death by almost 40 percent.
Surprisingly, these benefits held true even when the researchers controlled for smoking, drinking and a history of health problems such as hypertension or obesity.
2. How might running actually make us live longer?
It is important to remember that this study did not prove cause and effect. It did show an important association. It may be that exercise can counteract the effects of other health issues such as obesity and help to extend life. In addition, it may be that runners lead a more overall healthy life and this may play a significant role.
Running is known to combat many of the common risk factors for early death, including high blood pressure and extra body fat, especially around the middle.
3. What advice do you have for our viewers who want to begin an exercise program that includes running?
If you are not physically active now, it is important to talk with your doctor about your plans for exercise. It is important to set both short term and long term goals for exercise. The first step may be to simply get up and start moving—walking to the mailbox, then down the street, then down the block. For some people, joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer may be the right way to get motivated and make a lifestyle change.