Listen up, couch potatoes: One hour of running can add seven hours to your life. Now if that doesn’t get you to put down the remote, nothing will.
A new study soon-to-be published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found that overall, “runners had a 3.2 years longer life expectancy, compared with non-runners.”
That’s factoring in sex, weight, ethnicity, race, and even lifestyle decisions such as smoking or drinking.
Researchers from Iowa State University analyzed existing data to determine if other aerobic exercise like walking or biking had the same effects on lifespan, if too much running is detrimental or leads to early morality and if the tradeoff is really worth it.
The short answers: no, no and most definitely.
The biggest longevity benefit was seen in people who ran and did other physical activity. Those fitness nuts saw risk of death drop by an impressive 43 percent.
But even people who only ran had an average longevity benefit of 3.2 years. The benefit was apparent from running a couple hours a week (or adding just 30 minutes of running time to a weekly physical activity routine). But don’t think you have to run a marathon for a longer life – the benefits plateaued at four hours of running a week.
In addition to longer life expectancy, running and other regular physical activity led to a better life, with better physical and cognitive function, adding grey matter volume in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the brain – a potential lowering of “neurological disease-related mortality.”
The study said that even people who were previously inactive could pick up light or moderate-intensity exercise, like walking quickly, and build to running over time to eventually achieve the same health benefits. Longevity benefits are, of course, the greatest among people who run throughout their lives.
Exercises like biking, although contributing to a decreased premature death rate by 12 percent, did not have nearly the same benefits to life expectancy as running. Although scientists are unsure why, the study suggests that running is much more closely associated with reduced risks of high blood pressure and excess body fat than other workouts.
The researchers stress that running is not the cause for a longer life, but supportive of it and that other factors included in living healthfully increase the chances of living as many years as possible.
But running sure doesn’t hurt.