Why running is the most effective anti-aging medicine

June 1, 2023

There's been a long-standing debate between non-runners and runners about the "magical" health benefits of running. From helping you to sleep better, cultivate endurance and calm your mind, runners will passionately defend and promote their favourite pastime. 

Running does wonders in improving not only physical wellbeing, but also mental wellbeing. Running is also a wonderful stepping stone to other healthy lifestyle behaviour changes, both at an individual and at a community level.

While health professionals agree that regular physical activity does your mind and body a world of good, did you know that running specifically has been found to have substantial longevity benefits?

According to a paper titled Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity: "Running may further improve certain cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as adiposity [fattiness] and cardiorespiratory fitness, even after it is matched on energy expenditure with other types of vigorous-intensity physical activity. This may indicate that there is something inherent to running that is uniquely advantageous."

Running significantly reduces the risk of death

Interestingly enough, when the researchers compared a group of runners to a similar group of people who did other kinds of physical activity (PA), they found that "runners who were inactive in other PA had a 27% lower risk of death versus non-runners who were active in other PA." 

So what does this mean? The study’s results suggest that those who run versus those who perform other forms of physical activity may have a larger mortality benefit . But people who both run and perform other physical activities have the lowest risk of death — 43% lower in fact.

“Therefore,” the study concludes, “to get the maximal mortality benefits, participating in both running and other various PA is the best choice." 

Let’s explore the researchers' key findings:

4 reasons runners get the best health benefits

Runners live longer

The study found that after adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic variables, body mass index, and other types of physical activity, runners have 25% to 40% lower risk over non-runners of death by any cause.

Runners are far less at risk of cancer and heart disease

Those who run regularly have a 30% to 50% reduced risk of cancer-related mortality, and a 45% to 70% lower risk of death related to cardiovascular disease (CVD), compared to non-runners. If all non-runners became runners in this population, 16% of deaths by any cause and 25% of CVD mortality deaths would be prevented in the context of population-mortality burden.

Running is also good for your mental health

There's additional evidence that running can protect against mortality resulting from neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's. Physical activity has been found to improve cognitive function and reduce depressive symptoms, potentially lowering mortality related to some neurological or psychiatric conditions.

Runners tend to practice other healthy habits

Runners also tend to engage in other healthy behaviours that contribute to their increased longevity, such as maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking, and consuming light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol.

The research paper concludes that there are "strong plausible physiological mechanisms underlying how running can improve health and increase longevity." In fact, the researchers found that "runners had a 3.2 years longer life expectancy, compared with non-runners.”

When you break this down by the numbers, this suggests that for every hour of running you can gain 7 hours of extended life. 

Would you run an hour for an extra 7 hours of life?

If you feel running "just isn't for you" or if you struggle to practice it more regularly, these points might help get you excited to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement. 

  1. Even a jog will do the job. You don't have to sprint to gain the benefits of running (although interval training can help you achieve similar cardiorespiratory fitness results in a third of the time). Even slow jogging raises your heart rate enough to be considered a vigorous-intensity physical activity. Just 30 minutes of that a day could help you achieve your daily recommended level of cardio. For those who can't run or jog, a brisk walk with a couple of hills along the route can increase your heart rate, which could help you achieve the recommended exercise requirements to improve your health.
  2. Running is easily accessible and affordable. This kind of physical activity is convenient, affordable (compared to other kinds of sports) and requires no specialized training or equipment. Plus, there are many local running teams, clubs, clinics, and events where you can find enthusiasts to support and motivate you. The only important factor that you should invest in, is to ensure that you have a pair of well-fitted running shoes that are right for your type of foot and biomechanical needs.
  3. It really is never too late to start. Research has proven that there is no bad time to start running. In fact, one study found that “masters [older athletes] endurance runners can epitomize healthy aging.” 

If you're looking for an anti-aging solution, lace up those running shoes and get moving. Whether you’re heading outside for a leisurely jog or hitting the treadmill to knock out a few interval sprints, running will allow you to enjoy good health and just a while longer!


Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you. 

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