People who run tend to live about three years longer than those who don’t, says a new study. To reap the benefits of exercise and boost your longevity, it’s enough to run between two and four hours a week.
The findings come as a follow-up to a study done three years ago, in which a group of distinguished exercise scientists scrutinized data from a large trove of medical and fitness tests conducted at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. That analysis found that as little as five minutes of daily running was associated with prolonged life spans.
In concrete terms, an hour of running statistically lengthens life expectancy by seven hours, the researchers report.
Even after researchers accounted for smoking, drinking and health problems (like hypertension and obesity); these benefits could still be expected.
Of course, these additions “are not infinite,” says Duck-chul Lee, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and a co-author of the study. Running does not make people immortal. The gains in life expectancy are capped at around three extra years, he says.
Of course, the findings in this new review are associational, meaning that they prove that people who run tend also to be people who live longer, but not that running directly causes the increases in longevity. Runners typically also lead healthy lives, Dr. Lee says and their lifestyles may be playing an outsize role in mortality.
Research has also linked running to lower rates of stroke, cancer and metabolic diseases like diabetes, as well as better bone strength. Especially as you age and your bones start to weaken, running can help keep the bones of your legs healthy.
The study also found that those who combined running with other types athletic training could expect the same longevity benefits, which is great news for those who like some variety in class offerings and workout types.
The study was published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.