There's one simple thing you can do to look and feel younger: RUN! It’s as close to a miracle drug as we’ve got. Not only will running extend the length of our life, but it adds more life to those years.
Your body doesn’t distinguish one type of aerobic activity from another – your heart, for example, doesn’t know the difference between a bike ride that gets your pulse up to 150 and a run that does the same. Still, there are reasons why running is the top form of exercise to keep the muscles and mind young. And they’re best illustrated in this massive 2017 international study:
Researchers examined more than 55,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 100.
They determined that regardless of how old you are, whether you’re male or female, how much booze you drink, or whether you’ve ever exercised before…
- If you start running just one to two hours per week, you can slash your risk of cardiovascular-related death by 45 to 70 percent.
- Running slashes your chances of dying from cancer by 30 to 50 percent.
- The clincher: researchers discovered runners lived far longer than those who exercised regularly but didn’t run. Take that, cyclists.
Running and Your Heart
That thumping in your chest is the biggest age-defying benefit your regular running routine is giving you. As we age, our arteries stiffen, and when this happens, major cardiac events aren’t far behind. A decline in artery function significantly effects cognitive decline, and poor vascular health and function also increases your tendency to become more prone to diabetes. Even kidney disease is closely linked to the health of your arteries.
By running regularly, you safeguard yourself from all of this because it maintains and restores artery dilation and elasticity, and restores youth and vigor to the vessels.
Running and Your Mind
Running is actually a pretty cognitively demanding sport. People who run have a higher concentration and greater volume of gray matter, which means better memory, quicker recall, and generally feeling sharper and a lot of freaking smarter. Run through complex environments – a busy city or a rocky trail – and you also strengthen the brain in ways that positively affect planning, multitasking, self-awareness, and motor control.
Running and Your Immune System
If you haven’t noticed, runners get colds and flu less often than nonrunner friends. It’s not a coincidence. Regular running is linked to a stronger immune system, and it may even prevent age-related deterioration.
Running and VO2 Max
As you age, your VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during exercise, naturally drops; this drastically increases your risk of chronic illnesses. One of the best ways to keep VO2 max high is periodically pushing your heart and lungs with running intervals.
Running and Your Muscles
As you heft your body weight with each step, you’re preserving muscle and bone strength – a huge component of staying young.
The Optimal Running Dose
Is there a right amount to run? The million-dollar question! You might be please to know, it’s not that much. Experts found that running just two and a half total hours per week is enough to reap all its youth-promoting benefits.
Compared to not running, any running is good. And the good news for those logging three-plus hours a week is that, while you don’t get exponentially more benefits the more you run, you also won’t be hurting your health, as some experts had warned in the past.
Running allows your muscles to behave like more youthful muscles. It’s a crazy trickle-down effect, and therein lies the magic. While running itself can product immediate and lasting changes that make the body “younger,” it’s this ripple effect researchers point to as the sport’s most important quality. Having the strength, vigor, and energy to do anything you want – that’s what gives running its value.
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Reference: Runner’s World