New Meaning for an Old Saying: Run for Your Life
The findings from a recent study are lending new meaning to the old phrase "run for your life."
The study, conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine, tracked 500 older runners over the course of 20 years. The findings revealed that older runners have fewer disabilities, longer life spans and only half the risk of early death as nonrunners.
The findings support those of previous studies, which have shown that people who adopt running regimens and stick with it through the years reduce their incidence of chronic disease. And by warding off chronic diseases, they can go a long way toward increasing their chances of living far into old age.
“People hear the word aging and they think of cancer and other chronic diseases,” says Dr. Robert Keith, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System nutrition and health specialist and Auburn University professor of nutrition and food science who has closely followed these studies.
But the mistake many people make is failing to distinguish between chronic disease and old age, he says. Indeed, as health experts have discovered through the years, chronic disease and aging are not synonymous.
What this recent study and previous studies have shown is that exercise appears to have a striking effect in reducing the risks of developing many chronic diseases, freeing up many of these people to capitalize on their full genetic potential, Keith says. For example, the findings revealed the runners involved in the study typically developed initial disabilities and health problems 16 years later than nonrunners.
Many people overlook another basic reality of human life: that we have been programmed to move from a very early stage in our evolution. In other words, we’re natural-born runners.
“We’re actually programmed to move a heck of a lot more than we do,” says Keith, who maintains that even the government guidelines on exercise do not come close to the levels of physical activity humans need to realize their full genetic potential.
“Our ancestors moved a lot more than what is reflected in the federal exercise guidelines, which reflect the minimum of what we should be doing,” Keith says. “In evolutionary terms, we really are creatures of mobility.”
Indeed, Keith says sedentary lifestyles are a big factor behind spiking rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol and obesity, all known contributors to premature death.
Will strenuous exercise help us live to be as old as 150? No, says Keith, but by helping us ward off many of these chronic diseases associated with obesity and sedentary lifestyles, it may secure an excellent quality of life up to the ripe ages of 90 and possibly even 100.
While exercise may not increase maximum lifespan, it has been shown to increase average life span. For example, recent studies have uncovered a volume intensity effect of exercise on chronic diseases — up to a point, at least. People who walk at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week typically increase their mean life spans by as much as 2 years.
On the other hand, those who ran instead of walked 30 minutes a day 5 days a week may increase their mean life span by as much as 4 years.
However, Keith, a runner himself, believes that more strenuous running programs can yield even more impressive results — for example, running 60 minutes 6 days a week may increase one’s life span by as much as 7 years.
Whatever the case, Keith says people should understand that federal guidelines governing exercise are only minimal recommendations. There’s a lot more all of us can do to in terms of exercise to keep ourselves healthier, he says.
“We can do even more exercise, and, if we do, our chances of living longer are even better.”
Posted by Jim Langcuster at August 15, 2008 04:12 PM