The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Runners Live Longer and Retain Function

A debate in fad fitness is if you need aerobic activity to lose weight, or if weightlifting is sufficient. The larger issue is that you need to use your cardiovascular system for health.

A 21 year long study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that older runners live longer and suffer fewer disabilities than healthy non-runners.

All 440 study participants were 50 years old or over at the beginning of the study. All ran an average of four hours a week. By the end of the study, all were in their 70s, 80s, and older, running an average of 76 minutes a week.

At the 19 year mark in the study, 34 percent of the non-runners had died, compared with 15 percent of the runners. Onset of disability was delayed in runners by an average of 16 years.

Lead study author, Dr. James Fries, is almost 70, runs 20 miles a week and plays tennis. He stated the positive numbers for runners was not even as high as compared to average populations, because "the control group was pretty darn healthy." The "health gap" between runners and non-runners increased with age. Fries said, "I always thought that the two curves would start to parallel each other and that eventually aging would overpower exercise. We can't find even a little twitch toward that gap narrowing in the present time."

Study authors also stated that, "The findings probably apply to a variety of aerobic exercises, including walking."

Study was published in the Aug. 11 2008 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Conventional medical texts originally stressed that exercise would harm elders. That viewpoint led to disastrous decades of needless infirmities among people who could have retained mobility and independence.

In 1980, Dr. Fries wrote a landmark paper of his "compression of morbidity" hypothesis, that "regular exercise would compress, or reduce, the amount of time near the end of life when a person was disabled or unable to carry out the activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing and getting out of a chair."

Stay active, keep moving whatever your age. It is the most important medicine you have.

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.