Running Adds Years to Your Life

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Running regularly can extend your life by three years, regardless of age, body-mass index, or how fast or far you go, according to a new study published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. Running can lower your risk of dying from any disease by up to 40 percent, besting cycling, swimming, and other intense cardio workouts.

Plenty of past research has proven running is excellent for your health. It’s linked to lower body fat, better blood pressure and blood sugar control, and improved cardiorespiratory fitness. And compared to other forms of vigorous physical activity, running is more strongly linked to lower bodyweight and smaller waist circumference.

To get a better grip on running’s longevity benefits, a team of top cardiologists and running researchers from multiple universities and hospitals dug deep into the existing science, including a 2014 study that showed running just five minutes can extend your life. The large pool of data revealed that runners have up to 70 percent less heart disease–related death and up to 50 percent lower risk of dying from cancer. Overall, runners lived, on average, three years longer than non-runners.

But if you consider all the time spent running, were those three additional years moot since they’d be spent sweating it out on the trails anyway? Not even close. The researchers concluded that one hour of running equates to seven extra hours of life. There is a point at which the longevity benefits level off, but experts haven’t yet nailed it down. However, according to the paper, it’s likely in the ballpark of six runs, or 30 miles, a week.

As for why running can help you live longer, the researchers suspect it’s mainly because running improves cardiorespiratory fitness even more than other aerobic exercises of the same intensity. They say cardiorespiratory fitness — tied to weight loss, lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and a healthier brain, all factors that reduce risk of chronic disease — may be the strongest predictor of mortality.