We have always been told that running is good for health. The human body is built for long-distance or endurance running, unlike most other animals. We also have an efficient way to cool the body down, by sweating. So, human physiology is well-suited for running at a steady pace for long durations.
Research now shows that running is the secret to a long life too.
According to a new study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, running for as little as 75 minutes per week can add up to 12 years to your life.
Running, telomeres and long life
The study looked specifically at the telomeres, a region of repetitive DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome. The longer and more numerous the telomeres, the better your cellular health. Shorter telomeres also indicate a higher risk of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s. As people age, the number and length of their telomeres decline. However, exercise seems to help in slowing down the decline.
The researchers looked at more than 4,400 American adults, comparing those who ran at least 75 minutes a week with those who ran less than 10 minutes a week. They found that 75 minutes of jogging or running per week versus not running at all resulted in a biological age difference of approximately 12 years, favoring the runners.
Actual mortality was not measured, only ‘cellular’ ageing. However, as pointed out in the paper, reduced telomere length has been shown to correlate with increased mortality and risk of various chronic diseases.
Exercising and ageing
Physical activity doesn’t help delay ageing. However, exercise does help build up more physiological capacity and reserve so that you retain more functionality than a similar-aged person with similar age-related decline.
Exercise cannot reverse the ageing process, but it reduces many of its systemic and cellular effects. Exercise can simply increase the health span, the period in which a person does not succumb to age-related diseases.
Read more in our story on Myth Buster: Exercise does NOT delay ageing
How exercise protects the cells
Exercise improves one’s cell maintenance and metabolism, warding off age-related chronic illnesses and keeping bodily systems (such as the immune system) and brain in a good condition, ultimately enhancing one’s overall health, well-being and longevity.
It is recommended to engage in moderate aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes (five days per week) or vigorous aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes (three days per week), apart from strength training (minimum two days per week) coupled with regular balance and flexibility workouts.
Read more in our story on Twelve ways how exercise keeps you young
- Running for 75 minutes a week as been shown to add 12 years to your life, shows a new study. This is not necessarily an increase in lifespan, but an increase in health span.
- The study looked at telomeres, the structures at the end of chromosomes. The longer they are the better your cellular health. When the length of the telomeres was compared between those who run or jog and non-runners, a biological age difference of about 12 years — favouring the runners — was found.