Running is one of the most common forms of exercise – from casual jogging to ultra-marathoners – runners are everywhere.
But can running actually help us live longer?
According to research, the answer is ‘yes.’
Cleveland Clinic’s Donald Ford, M.D., MBA, said running is good for our longevity because it exercises the heart muscle.
“It’s the aerobic exercise that exercises the heart muscle,” he said. “Just like doing barbells is going to exercise your arm muscle – it’s the same thing – and exercising the heart muscle is what seems to keep us around longer.”
Several studies have looked at the effects of running on heart health and overall death risk.
One study, that looked at more than 50,000 runners between the ages of 18-100, found that running just 5-10 minutes every day – even at slow speeds – was associated with reduced risks of death and heart disease.
Another study looked at runners over the age of 50 and found that people who ran during middle and older ages had reduced disability later in life and actually lived longer than their non-running peers.
Dr. Ford said it’s no secret exercise if good for our overall health, but the research shows running, especially, is beneficial for the health of our hearts, joints, and our bodies in general.
“Running is an aerobic exercise for the heart muscle,” he said. “I always tell patients, it’s great if you want to go to the gym and lift weights and pump iron, because it’s good for your muscles, and there’s nothing wrong with that – you’re burning calories, you’re building muscle, and you’re increasing your muscular resiliency – but that’s not the same as aerobic exercise for your heart.”
Dr. Ford said we don’t have to be marathon runners to see the benefits of running, and that any amount of aerobic exercise is better for our health and longevity than none at all.
But like any exercise, he said it’s important to take it slow if you’re just starting out.
“You have to be very careful as you approach this – whether you’re a young person, or an old person – to make sure that you’re protecting yourself; you’re protecting yourself against injury; you’re warming up correctly, and you’re doing this in an appropriate fashion,” said Dr. Ford.