Run For Your Life

Athletics Weekly|November 21, 2019

Run For Your Life
CAN ANY AMOUNT OF RUNNING – EVEN LESS THAN AN HOUR A WEEK – LEAD TO A LONGER, HEALTHIER LIFE? JOHN SHEPHERD DISCOVERS IT CAN
John Shepherd

EXERCISE has long been promoted as a way to stay healthy and live longer. Indeed, we recently looked at the benefits of exercise for masters athletes (AW, Oct 31) and on all markers of physical performance, including strength, speed and aerobic capacity, masters were seen to be in superior health to the sedentary. Of course, this is not surprising, as many of these athletes have been training throughout their lives, or if not potentially 3-5 times a week in middle and later life once bitten by the athletics bug.

Research in Progress Cardiovascular Disease said of the benefits of running: “In general runners have a 25-40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately three years longer than non-runners.”

Compelling reasons to start and continue to run then. But how much running is enough to gain the health-giving benefits?

Research in Archives in International Medicine looked at this question. This US survey considered over 8000 recreational runners who ran less than 16km a week with long distance runners who ran circa 80km a week. The cohorts were then evaluated against risk of coronary heart disease factors, such as cholesterol levels, hypertension and blood lipid levels.

The team discovered that the long-distance runners had an 85% reduced prevalence of high-density lipoprotein (the “worrying” for health reasons type of cholesterol when elevated). These runners’ levels were in fact indicated to be “clinically low” and overall their cholesterol levels were seen to be protective against coronary heart disease. The higher mileage runners also had a near 50% reduction in hypertension and a more than 50% reduction in the use of medications to reduce blood pressure.

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November 21, 2019