We are genetically programmed to run from birth.
It’s clear from how youngsters behave when they run that they thoroughly enjoy it.
It’s also clear that its role in helping our ancestor’s hunt and evade predators that it’s essential to our survival.
Running is inextricably tied to our health, and this is being reinforced in a handful of recent studies.
One such study found that not only will running add years to your lifespan, but that the amount of running required to achieve this is surprisingly meager.
All these studies have indicated an increase in lifespan, but one particular study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which investigated longevity but also the dose-response of different levels of running.
The researchers looked at over 55,000 people between 18 and 100 years old and adjusted for variables, such as age, sex, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and family history of cardiovascular disease.
They divided the subjects into six groups – one were non-runners, and the remaining five groups were divided up based on volume of running each week, as little as one to two days, and less than 50 minutes per week to as much as six days and three hours per week.
The results showed that the people who ran for as little as five minutes per day accrued the same increased life span of three years as the high-volume runners.
Researchers did not speculate on the reason for this surprising finding, though they speculate there may be a genetic ceiling for this kind of lifespan extension.
The calculation made from the data indicates that for every one hour of running, you add seven hours to your life-span, and that no matter what your pace or mileage, running reduces the risk of premature death by 40 per cent.
Is the converse case true? Is there an amount of running above which it has a detrimental effect on your health? This study did not show any such effect.
Despite the fact that very few low volume and high volume runners both gain the same life expectancy benefit the more you run each week, the higher your fitness level.
A person’s cardiovascular fitness increases proportionally with the volume of time (or distance) run each week.
As you would expect, the more you run, the fitter you get.
So running will add years to your life, but will also improve the quality of life you live by reducing the incidence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and will make your bones and joints stronger, keep you mobile, improve your mood and reduce stress (through the effects of endorphin release).
Kerry Senchyna holds a bachelor
of science degree