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Could Running at Your Own Pace Increase Your Life Expectancy?

A Syracuse University journalism student named Kathrine Switzer made history in 1967 by becoming the first woman to enter officially the Boston Marathon. Last month, a half-century later, she crossed the finish line yet again – marking her 40th marathon race, and her ninth time racing in the Boston Marathon.

Today, she is a role model for seniors. She is 70 years old and as healthy as can be! And running might have something to do with why she is so healthy.

A recent study from Iowa State University suggests that running, which Switzer does daily, might be the most effective exercise to increase life expectancy. Of course, not everyone can run marathons like Switzer. The study suggests you don’t have to run marathons or even run daily to improve your health, you just have to run at your own pace.

The study compared runners to non-runners and found that runners lived about three more years even if they run slowly or sporadically, and not even every day. A previous study at Cooper Institute in Dallas found that as little as five minutes of daily running might lead to longer life spans.

The Iowa research showed that it did not matter the pace of the runner or the mileage. Those who ran saw a risk of premature death decline by almost 40 percent.

The most amazing aspect of this research may be that for every hour spent running, it returned more time to people’s lives. It is estimated that even if you start running after age 40, you could increase your life expectancy by about 3 years.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) says that exercise like running provides many health benefits that older adults can gain by simply staying physically active. Moderate exercise can help people who are frail or have age-related diseases and help improve mental health as well.

Some older adults may still feel reluctant to exercise because they may be concerned it can be harmful. But the NIH warns that just “taking it easy” can be risky as well. Lack of exercise can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalization, and more use of medicines.

For example, people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or difficulty walking, according to the NIH.

Running is the type of “self help” medicine that can keep older Americans out of the hospital. As a Medicare QIO, one of Livanta’s goals is to help foster the development of healthy communities. By exercising regularly, you can help to make you and your community a healthier place!


To learn more about exercise and diabetes, see "Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes" from Go4Life®, the exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging.

For more on cognitive function, check out, "Do Exercise and Physical Activity Protect the Brain?" from Go4Life®, the exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging.