Even 30 Minutes Twice a Week Can Lengthen Your Life

Wed, 10 Oct. 2012 - 1:16 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

EuroPRevent is the annual meeting organized by the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, which is a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology. At EuroPRevent 2012, which was held in early May in Dublin, evidence from the long-term Copenhagen City Heart Study was presented that strongly suggests regular joggers can increase life expectancy by about six years.
The Copenhagen City Heart Study, which started back in 1976, makes use of the Copenhagen Population Register and is a prospective cardiovascular study that boasts subjects of both genders totaling approximately 20,000. The youngest subjects are 20 years old, while the oldest are now 93 and counting. The goal three and a half decades ago was to increase understanding of the causes underlying heart disease and stroke. Since then it has yielded some 750 published research papers and expanded to include other diseases ranging from allergy to sleep apnea. The central idea continues to be discovering associations with longevity, and now they have done so for different forms of exercise.
“Jogging” is the term of choice here because, surprisingly, the researchers found the strongest link with longevity among people who ran at a “slow or average” pace for just one to two and a half hours per week. The average lifespan increase for male subjects in this population of exercisers was 6.2 years; for women the increase was 5.6 years. The subjects were asked to self-report their pace as either slow, average, or fast. While this seems a fairly blunt instrument to measure workout intensity, it does suggest that people who run at an easy-to-moderate effort, several times a week, for just 30 minutes or more see real health benefits. As little as two half-hour easy runs per week appear to offer measurable improvements in life expectancy. Five easy runs per week at this duration puts you in the upper reaches of this optimal zone—this is hardly overtraining. 
The mortality of 1,116 male joggers and 762 female joggers was compared to the non-joggers in the main study population. The first data was collected between 1976 and 1978, the second from 1981 to 1983, the third from 1991 to 1994, and the fourth from 2001 to 2003. Results showed that in the follow-up period involving a maximum of 35 years, 10,158 deaths were registered among the non-joggers and only 122 deaths among the joggers. Analysis showed that risk of death was reduced by 44% for both male and female joggers. 
 
Next, exploring the amounts of exercise undertaken by joggers in the study revealed a U-shaped curve for the relationship between the time spent exercising and mortality. As noted above, the researchers found that between one hour and two and a half hours a week, undertaken over two to three sessions, delivered the optimum benefits, especially when performed at a slow or average pace. Mortality is lower in people reporting moderate jogging than not only in non-joggers but also in those undertaking extreme levels of exercise. In other words, your efforts should leave you a little breathless, but not very breathless.
 
The conclusions presented at EuroPRevent 2012 should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. But the health benefits of moderate exercise are well known and so the hard numbers on mortality rates and improved life expectancy shouldn’t come as a shock. Still, it’s impressive to hear risk-of-death reductions of 44%, and encouraging to runners everywhere—whether seasoned or just starting out—that jogging is most definitely good for your health and not overdoing it, as we shall see in another piece of recent news, is even better.
 

European Society of Cardiology, “Regular Jogging Shows Dramatic Increase in Life Expectancy,” May 3, 2012, http://www.escardio.org/about/press/press-releases/pr-12/Pages/regular-jogging-increases-life-expectancy.aspx
 
(RUNNING & FITNEWS® May / June 2012 • Volume 30, Number 3)




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