Want to Live Longer? Go for a Run, Says Science

Updated: Apr. 24, 2017

Pounding the pavement does more than keep you fit, it could actually add years to your life.

runningJaromir Chalabala/ShutterstockPhysical inactivity is to blame for six percent of premature deaths and is the fourth leading global risk factor for death after high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood glucose. Running is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise and science now shows it doesn’t just keep you healthy, it could actually help you live longer. (Did you know hot peppers can also make you live longer?)

An analysis of several large studies, published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, found that runners live an average of three years longer than non-runners, and one hour of running provides about seven hours of additional life. What’s more, runners had a 30 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality than both non-runners who did different forms of physical activity and completely inactive adults. Researchers suspect that the various benefits of running on the body, particularly improved cardiorespiratory fitness (an important marker of heart health), may be to thank for the increased lifespan. A meta-analysis of 49 randomized, controlled trials discovered that running interventions compared to inactive control groups produced improvements in body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness, and good HDL cholesterol. It may also reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related mortality by 45 to 70 percent compared to not running and could lower cancer-related death risk by 30 to 50 percent in runners versus non-runners. (These are the running mistakes you didn’t know you were making.)

Running isn’t the only fitness regimen that will keep you healthy, even if it may be the best. One study of 44,551 men aged 40 to 75 found that running, tennis, and brisk walking led to a 46 percent, 28 percent, and 23 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively (according to the American Heart Association, CVD is to blame for more than 800,000 deaths each year). And, a Taiwanese study of 400,000 people found that a 15-minute walk generated the same mortality benefits as five minutes of running.

Good news for the approximately 17 million road racers in the U.S., and an even better reason to join them!