Runners live longer than those who do not exercise
A 20-year study (1) examined nearly 1,000 middle-aged adults over a 20 year period. The researchers found that people who regularly go for a jog were half as likely as non-runners to have died during the study period. The runners also experienced fewer disabilities, and had better health.
This difference in mortality rates is staggering! During the study, about 34% of the non-runners had died by age 70, compared with just 15% of the runners. The groups of runners and non-runners were matched to account for age, weight, and other health predictors.
A 2014 study (2) of 55,137 adults, 18 to 100 years of age (mean age 44 years) looked at how running might protect you from dying. The conclusion was that runners had a 30% lower risk of death from any cause, and a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Regular runners have an additional three year life expectancy benefit.
The runners ran once or twice a week for less than an hour, and less than 10 km (6 miles).
A study published in 2017 (3) found that running for as little as five minutes a day can significantly lower your risk of dying. Runners enjoy a 25 to 40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners.
Alternatives to running
If you are not keen on running, or are unable to do some exercises, there are plenty of others that should have the same beneficial effects. You can decrease your biological age by up to ten years simply by vigorous walking - most days, and for at least half an hour. Or just pick any other aerobic activity (like swimming or tennis) that you enjoy, and go hard enough at it to get your heart rate up.
It is sitting around doing no exercise that is very dangerous. Inactivity is a killer. If you are inactive, any movement has big benefits in terms of digestion, (4) energy (5) and immunity. (6)
1. Reduced disability and mortality among aging runners: a 21-year longitudinal study.
Chakravarty, E. F. et al., Archives of Internal Medicine 2008 Aug 11;168(15):1638-1646.
2. Duck-chul Lee, Russell R. Pate, Carl J. Lavie, Xuemei Sui, Timothy S. Church, Steven N. Blair. Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 64, Issue 5, August 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058.
3. Lee DC, Brellenthin AG, Thompson PD, Sui X, Lee IM, Lavie CJ. Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 29 March 2017. pii: S0033-0620(17)30048-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2017.03.005.
4. Matthieu Clauss, Philippe Gerard, Alexis Mosca, Marion Leclerc. Interplay Between Exercise and Gut Microbiome in the Context of Human Health and Performance. Front. Nutr., 10 June 2021. Sec. Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Volume 8, 2021.
5. Andrew W Gardner, Polly S Montgomery, Yan D Zhao, Federico Silva-Palacios, Zoltan Ungvari, Anna Csiszar, William E Sonntag. Association between daily walking and antioxidant capacity in patients with symptomatic peripheral artery disease. Journal of Vascular Surgery, Volume 65, Issue 6, 2017, Pages 1762-1768, ISSN 0741-5214.
6. Nieman DC, Henson DA, Austin MD, Brown VA. Immune response to a 30-minute walk. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Jan;37(1):57-62. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000149808.38194.21. PMID: 15632669.