Running May Increase Life Expectancy

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Joggers, sprinters and marathon runners have the right idea when it comes to fitness and overall health. Running doesn’t just keep you fit and in shape; it can also can add years to your life, according to a study.

The great thing about this new research is that it doesn’t matter how fast you run or the amount of mileage you cover. Running just one hour a week can increase your life expectancy; specifically, research shows that every hour you run extends your life by seven hours. Those who incorporate regular running in their lives can expect to extend their lives by three additional years.

Credit: markheybo/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

This recent study, done by Iowa State University, reevaluated a previous study performed by The Cooper Institute in Texas as well as several other studies that examined links between exercise and mortality.

The new research found that a person’s risk of premature death was reduced by 40 percent when they started running, and that life expectancy even improved when the person had a history of smoking, drinking or issues with being overweight or obese.

Scientists also believe that if every non runner started running, there could be 16 percent fewer deaths overall and 25 percent less fatal heart attack victims.

Related: Can You Really Shake Your Way to a Runner’s Body?

But Dr. Duck-chul Lee, professor of Kinesiology at Iowa State University and co-author of the study, warns that running does not make people immortal and that the increase in life expectancy is usually capped at around three years regardless of the amount that people run.

The study also showed that prolonged running was not counterproductive for longevity. The improvements seen in years added to one’s life plateaued at four hours of running per week, but they did not decline.

Credit: Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

People who enjoyed vigorous forms of movement other than running also benefited from extended life spans. Those who walked, cycled or participated in other activities that produced the same amount of exertion as running were able to drop their risk of premature death by 12 percent.

There are no exact reasons why running is so beneficial for extending life expectancy, but Dr. Lee says that the fact that running helps to combat common risk factors for early death, including high blood pressure and extra body fat around the midsection, is key.

Another factor is the fact that people who run tend to have active lifestyles overall, as their healthier way of life could be influencing their positive mortality rates. So it might not just be the running itself that prolongs life, but rather their physically fit way of life which includes a regular schedule of running.

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Ronke Idowu Reeves
Ronke Idowu Reeves is a writer and journalist who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Her news and entertainment stories have appeared on WABC-TV-New York, Fox News Channel, VH1, BET.com plus in Sundance Film Festival’s Sundance Daily Insider and People Magazine.