Regular running retards ageing

August 12th, 2008 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 12 (IANS) Regular running slows effects of ageing, besides bestowing a longer lifespan, according to a new study from Stanford University School of Medicine. The study, which tracked 500 older runners over 20 years, also found that they have fewer disabilities, being half as likely as ageing non-runners to die early deaths.

“The study has a very pro-exercise message,” said James Fries, an emeritus professor of medicine at Standord and the study’s senior author. “If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise.”

When Fries and his team began this study in 1984, many scientists thought vigorous exercise would do older folks more harm than good. Some feared the long-term effect of the then-new jogging craze would be floods of orthopaedic injuries, with older runners permanently hobbled by their exercise habit.

Fries had a different hypothesis: he thought regular exercise would extend high-quality, disability-free life. Fries’ team began tracking 538 runners over age 50, comparing them to a similar group of non-runners.

The subjects, now in their 70s and 80s, have answered yearly questionnaires about their ability to perform everyday activities such as walking, dressing and grooming, getting out of a chair and gripping objects.

The researchers have used national death records to learn which participants died, and why. Nineteen years into the study, 34 percent of the non-runners had died, compared to 15 percent of the runners.

At the beginning of the study, the runners ran an average of about four hours a week. After 21 years, their running time declined to an average of 76 minutes per week, but they were still seeing health benefits from running.

The effect of running on delaying death has also been more dramatic than the scientists expected. Not surprisingly, running has slowed cardiovascular deaths.

However, it has also been associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.

And the dire injury predictions other scientists made for runners have fallen completely flat. Fries, 69, takes his own advice on ageing: he’s an accomplished runner, mountaineer and outdoor adventurer.

The new findings have appeared in Monday’s issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

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