Running improves physical fitness and helps keep the scale on target but recent research supports that running also improves the quality and the length of life. Perhaps the most surprising finding is the amount of running required to reap these benefits.
A recent study in the Journal of American College of Cardiology found that running at a pace of just 10 minutes per mile or slower for only 5 to 10 minutes per day led to a lower risk of not just cardiovascular related death but all causes of death. The study of more than 55,000 adults found that any amount of running correlates with longevity and might be just as important as blood pressure, weight and whether or not a person smokes.
Researchers of this study recommend that healthcare providers emphasize the importance of running, even for just a few minutes per day, to improve life expectancy but running not only lengthens life, it improves the quality of those extra years and it’s never too late to lace up.
Another study found that runners between the ages of 64-74 expend the approximately the same amount of energy as a much younger sedentary adults when walking so the benefits of running spill over into other physical activities and into other areas of life, including a reduction in stress.
Simply put, running, and exercise in general, leads to the release of endorphins, the hormones that reduce pain and release pleasant and happy feelings and research released in Arthritis Research & Therapy states that even those suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or even fibromyalgia were able to reduce depression symptoms with exercise. Some runners experience and immediate mood boost or a ‘runner’s high’ while others might gradually watch depression and anxiety wane as the side effects of running kick in. A regular running or jogging routine can lead to weight loss, more nutritious diet choices and improved cardiovascular health; all of which create a more well-rounded lifestyle and a better sense of well-being.
The cardiovascular health benefits are perhaps one of the most important life-improving and life-saving aspects of running because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is to blame for 1 in 4 deaths in America and although genetics do play a role, lifestyle choices take center stage when it comes to most heart disease risk factors including cholesterol and most cases of hypertension (or blood pressure equal to 140/90 or higher). Essential, or lifestyle-induced hypertension accounts for 95% of all high blood pressure cases as a result of a variety of factors, including inactivity, obesity, smoking, stress and poor diet choices while running decreases the likelihood of all of the above.
So whether it’s the primary physiological reactions or the cumulative health improvements that provide the motivation to keep running, the short-term benefit of a better life and long-term benefit of a longer life make it well-worth the time commitment, especially if it’s only for a few minutes per day.