How Much Does Running Improve Life Expectancy?
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, July 28th, 2017
Dr. Josef J. Geldwert isn’t just a doctor at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offices in Manhattan and White Plains; he is also a life-long distance runner with marathon training experience. For this reason, he is frequently consulted by athletes entering the Olympic trials and organizations like the NY Road Runners, in addition to working with events such as the NYC Triathlon.
Most people are surprised to learn that Dr. Geldwert is almost 70-years-old, as active as he is. “I love a good Central Park workout!” he confesses. He is particularly interested in the latest research about the many health benefits of running, not to mention ways to keep himself and his patients running well into old age.
Iowa State University researchers published a new review and analysis of existing research about the impact of exercise on premature death in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease. Their findings validate the idea that running has huge benefits on life expectancy.
Runners Live Three Years Longer Than Non-Runners
Running is believed to be the single most effective exercise to increase life expectancy, according to Dr. Duck-chul Lee, professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. The new study found that runners tend to live three years longer than non-runners—even if they run at a slow pace, are overweight, or smoke and drink occasionally. No other form of exercise came remotely close to being as effective at improving longevity.
Just Five Minutes of Daily Running Improves Lifespan
Several years ago, Pennington Institute Professor Timothy Church co-authored a study that concluded just 5-10 minutes a day of running at a leisurely 10-minute-mile pace corresponded with significantly longer lifespans. In fact, their lifespans were comparable to people who ran fast 6-minute miles for 150 minutes or more a week. Both groups fared much better than non-runners. No matter the pace or mileage clocked, runners had a 40% lower risk of premature death.
Running Adds More Time to Life Than It Consumes
The average person in the Cooper Institute study reported 2 hours of running per week. Researchers estimated that a typical runner would spend less than 6 months of running over the course of 40 years but could expect an increase in life expectancy of 3.2 years, for a net gain of 2.8 years.
An Hour of Running Increases Life Expectancy by Seven Hours
The gains in life expectancy are capped at roughly 3 extra years, but generally speaking, researchers found that 1 hour of running adds 7 hours onto your life. Mull that revelation over your next long-distance trek!
Four Hours of Running Per Week is All You Need
The benefits of running on life expectancy tended to plateau at 4 hours per week. Running more doesn’t make you less likely to die soon, though the benefits do not decrease if you run more than 4 hours. You can train confidently for that marathon, knowing that you are not literally “running yourself to death”—though it may feel that way at times!
Cross-Training Lowers the Risk of Premature Death by 12%
Walking, cycling, and other forms of physical activity were shown to lower the risk of premature death by 12%. That’s a far cry from the 40% decrease of premature death among runners, but it’s still worthwhile. There’s nothing exactly “magical” about running, some experts contend, but rather, it’s the way most active people choose to spend their time. It could also be that running effectively increases aerobic fitness, lowers blood pressure, decreases body fat, and improves cardiovascular health—all predictors for long-term health. It may simply be that runners happen to be more committed to wellness in general.
No matter how you look at the data, though, running is connected with living a longer, healthier life. If you want help maintaining a running routine well into old age or need treatment for running-related injuries, contact NYC sports medicine doctor Josef Geldwert, DPM.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.