Ron Marinucci June Column

Ron Marinucci June Column

Provided by RMDC

It’s said the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon, after landing in what he named “Florida,” heard from the natives about some “Fountain of Youth.” Intrigued, he then led his men on an expedition to find it. He followed the hints and paths fed by Indian stories and legends, eventually coming to what is now Hot Springs, Arkansas. Those “hot springs,” Mother Natures’ Jacuzzis, were the “Fountain of Youth” of which the Indians spoke.

Of course, we know there is no such “fountain.” But who knows? Perhaps someday scientists will discover some such place or elixir. Until then, we have running and other aerobic exercise.

With Ponce de Leon and his quest to find the “Fountain of Youth” in mind, earlier this year several reports provided great news for runners. None of the findings or conclusions are particularly new, but the reinforcement of some of the benefits of running is welcome.

On the whole, I think we all (at least we runners) realize that running keeps us healthy and healthier. It’s not just the better fitness and strength, but also the healthier lifestyles it helps us to lead. We don’t smoke or chew tobacco and we drink fewer alcoholic beverages. We weigh less and have more energy. We have a more positive outlook on life. The quality of our lives is greater. And more……

But running also helps us to live longer. There is a direct positive correlation between running and life longevity. Researchers are not completely certain of the causal relationship, but the evidence is clear: runners tend to live longer than those who don’t run.

Most people would probably surmise that this is the case in comparing sedentary folks with those who exercise regularly. And it is. But while cyclists and avid walkers also have longer life spans, they don’t match the longevity of those who run.

Here is a summary of some of the recent reports.

The Mayo Clinic published a review of eighteen leading studies and tests comparing running and life longevity. Their findings showed that fairly minimal amounts of running reap significant benefits. Running six miles a week or fifty-two minutes a week were associated with lives that were from three to six years longer than those of nonrunners. Perhaps surprising, too, is that pace was not particularly important. That’s good news to sloggers like me.

I remember, years ago, reading a health study that noted if one is running more than twenty miles a week, he/she is doing it for something more than his/her health. These studies support that idea. Up to twenty miles per week showed no increase in longevity over the lower mileage. Those twenty miles seem to provide the maximum benefits, for instance, as a safeguard against cardiovascular causes of death. There is, however, some slight indication that more than twenty miles might cause some loss of the benefits in longevity. Yet it is pointed out that, if there is any loss, the risks of it are very small.

A study in the March issue of Progress in Cardiovascular Disease claims that running decreases the risk of premature death by anywhere from 25% to 40%. Translated, that means that runners tend to live up to three years longer than our sedentary counterparts. This study shows that these benefits can be reaped from a mere four hours of running a week, a little more than half an hour a day or a bit longer with rest days tossed in.

A review of the findings of a study completed at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas indicated that just two hours of running each week translated to an increase in life expectancy of a little more than three years. Its explanations went a little farther. Running two hours each week for forty years accumulates to almost six months of lifetime running. In other words, the tradeoff for six months of running over one’s lifetime is an additional three-plus years of living. For every hour of running, on average, runners live an extra six or seven hours.

Of course, running is not the “Fountain of Youth.” It doesn’t make runners immortal. But even taking into account other lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, obesity, and hypertension, runners live longer. And don’t overlook the healthier and happier, more productive lives. Until science finds our “fountain,” running will do us just fine. It’s always pleasant to be reminded of that.