Running can increase your longevity, improve your mental health and help you maintain a healthy weight - just to name a few of the benefits!
1. Increased longevity
A 2018 meta-analysis of runners vs. non-runners (1) found that runners have approx. 25-30 percent lower rate of “all- cause” mortality and concluded that “any amount of running, even once per week, is better than no running.”
Another running-specific paper (2) showed running to add approximately 3 years longer life than non-runners. Some of the reasons that have been suggested are: better cardiovascular fitness, healthier weight, lower cholesterol, better glucose control, stronger bones, better hormone regulation and better neurological function.
Studies focused specifically on senior runners have shown better biologic profiles and increased longevity. Middle-aged runner had big benefits as well. A famous Stanford study (3) compared runners in their mid-50’s with non-runners who had excellent medical care. After 20 years later, the death rate was more than 50 percent lower among the runners and the runners had disability scores 11-16 years later than the non-runners meaning they were more functional longer in life. The study also highlighted that the older the subjects were, the bigger benefits were seen among the runners.
2. Improved mental health
There’s overwhelming evidence that running makes you feel better and reduces depression.
A 2016 meta-analysis on exercise and depression (4) showed exercise was and effective treatment for depression, was as effective as psychotherapy and medication and exercise “may be an alternative” to expensive and often hard to find and schedule medical treatments.
American Psychological Association’s 2019 handbook on Sport and Exercise Psychology states “There is substantial evidence supporting exercise use in the treatment of mental disorders, especially depression.” As positive as this evidence appears, it does not mean you should rely solely on running when battling depression. Depression is a serious, widespread disease, and should be confronted with a full array of medical approaches.
3. Loose and maintain a healthy weight
Movement burns calories and running burns more than most other activities. Running burns roughly 100 calories per mile. (For more accuracy, multiply .75 x your body weight in pounds to get your personal calorie burn per mile.)
A 2019 British Journal of Sports Medicine editorial authors note (5) stated: “It is incontrovertible that exercise can and does result in weight loss.” Moreover, it leads to a “multitude of other positive effects on health.”
A National Weight Control Registry program is studying successful weight-losers who’ve lost average 66 lb. and kept it off for 5.5 years. 95% of them exercise approx. 1 hour per day. 98% have modified their diet in some way.
“The Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Weight Loss and Maintenance,” (6) a 2018 study found that individuals exercising 200 to 300 minutes per week achieve better weight maintenance than those doing less than 150 minutes a week. It takes work and consistency, but the effort is worthwhile, as lower body weight appears to “profoundly enhance” health-related quality of life.
These are just a few reasons you might want to add running into your lifestyle. Stay tuned for more evidence-based studies on the science behind running!
1. Pedisic et al. Is running associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2886-3556
2. Lee, Duck-Chul et al. Running as a key lifestyle Medicine for Longevity. Jun-Jul 2017;60(1):45-55. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28365296/
3. Chakravarty, Eliza F, et al. Reduced disability and mortality among aging runner: a 21-year longitudinal study. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Aug 11; 168(15): 1638–1646.
4. Kvam, Siri et al. Exercises as a treatment for depression: A meta analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders. Vol 202, 15 September 2016, Pages 67-86 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032715314221#
5. Phillips, Stuart M et al. Out-running ‘bad’ diets: beyond weight loss there is clear evidence of the benefits of physical activity. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol 53, Issue14. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/53/14/854.abstract
6. Swift, Damen L. et al. The effects of exercise and physical activity on weight loss and maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. Volume 61, Issue 2, July–August 2018, Pages 206-213 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0033062018301440