An Hour of Running May Add 7 Hours to Your Life

An Hour of Running May Add 7 Hours to Your Life, by Gretchen Reynolds.

Running may be the single most effective exercise to increase life expectancy, according to a new review and analysis of past research about exercise and premature death. The new study found that, compared to nonrunners, runners tended to live about three additional years, even if they run slowly or sporadically and smoke, drink or are overweight. No other form of exercise that researchers looked at showed comparable impacts on life span. …

Cumulatively, the data indicated that running, whatever someone’s pace or mileage, dropped a person’s risk of premature death by almost 40 percent, a benefit that held true even when the researchers controlled for smoking, drinking and a history of health problems such as hypertension or obesity. …

Perhaps most interesting, the researchers calculated that, hour for hour, running statistically returns more time to people’s lives than it consumes. Figuring two hours per week of training, since that was the average reported by runners in the Cooper Institute study, the researchers estimated that a typical runner would spend less than six months actually running over the course of almost 40 years, but could expect an increase in life expectancy of 3.2 years, for a net gain of about 2.8 years. …

Running does not make people immortal. The gains in life expectancy are capped at around three extra years, he says, however much people run. …

Improvements in life expectancy generally plateaued at about four hours of running per week, Dr. Lee says. But they did not decline [with more running]. …

Meanwhile, other kinds of exercise also reliably benefited life expectancy, the researchers found, but not to the same degree as running. Walking, cycling and other activities, even if they required the same exertion as running, typically dropped the risk of premature death by about 12 percent. …

[Running] combats many of the common risk factors for early death, including high blood pressure and extra body fat, especially around the middle. It also raises aerobic fitness, he says, and high aerobic fitness is one of the best-known indicators of an individual’s long-term health.