Running is most likely the oldest form of exercise. Sprinting from prehistoric animals was surely the impetus for this still popular form of physical activity. Today we know running burns calories, increases lower-body bone density, and improves the aerobic and cardio-vascular systems. That's quite an impressive resume for a physical activity as simple as rapidly placing one foot in front of the other. Running at least 30 minutes 3 to 4 times per week is sufficient to receive the benefits, but even a sparse running schedule will produce some positive effects on the body.
Add Another Benefit To The Running Resume
James Fries, MD, a retired professor at Stanford University Medical School, and a team of doctors, tracked over 500 older runners for over 20 years. You may find the results interesting. The research, which began in 1984, was met with resistance from scientists who believed vigorous exercise would be detrimental to the participants deemed too old. Dr. Fries, however, believed the opposite was true and that running would augment the runners' ability to function more easily and reduce the occurrence physical deterioration and debilitating diseases.
Dr. Fries was right and called his theory the compressed morbidity theory. The idea behind the theory: running would not necessarily extend life but compress the amount of time participants spent in poor health.
Testing The Theory
Dr. Fries tracked 583 runners at least 50 years of age and compared them to a similar group of non-runners. To ascertain data, runners responded to an annual questionnaire about their ability to perform daily activities. Nineteen years into the study, while 34% of the non-runners had died only 15% of the runners passed on. Runners started out running about 4 hours per week but 19 years later they were running an average of 76 minutes per week but still reaping benefits.
Both groups became disabled as they aged. The runners' initial disability appeared 16 years later than the non-runners. The functionability gap between the two groups also grew over time. Dr. Fries said he was surprised to see that the gap continued to widen as subjects entered their ninth decade.
What About Health Benefits
Deaths associated with the cardio-vascular system as well as deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes declined in the running group. The doubts initially expressed by other scientists surrounding older people running have dissipated as more studies back Dr. Fries' theory.
If you're looking for a way to slow down the effects of aging you might consider going for a run a few times a week. When danger suddenly appears you've heard people say, run for your life - (yeah it's usually in a movie), but now you know you can literally run for your life!
Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing. -Oliver Wendell Holmes
Source: Stanford University Medical Center (2008, August 11). Running Slows The Aging Clock, Researchers Find.