Who needs the Fountain of Youth when you have a pair of running shoes?

Long distance runners have often been chided for their exercise habits. Great tales of woe have been forecast by usually supportive friends and family. Creaky joints, hip and knee replacements and deterioration from osteoarthritis have all been predicted by well-meaning cynics.

However, if you’re a runner you’ll be relieved to hear of a study conducted by esteemed researcher Dr. James F. Fries of Stanford University. Dr. Fries and his colleagues have been studying a large number of runners and non-runners over the age of 50 for the last 20 years.

The study began in 1984, around the time of the birth of the fitness craze and the Jane Fonda workout era. Dr. Fries wanted to ascertain the effects of regular running on the overall health, well- being and longevity of those who chose to run regularly and those who didn’t.   

Seniors running As the years passed, Dr. Fries and his team noticed a contradiction to popular belief. Far from crippling these aging athletes, aerobic activity (running in this particular case) was enabling participants to stay younger and healthier than their non-running friends. The results of the study revealed that it was the non-runners who had a higher incidence of injury, disease and mortality. After 19 years, 15% of runners who had enlisted in the study had died compared with 34% of the non-runner control group.  Improved cardiovascular function was just one of the benefits of running. Lower incidences of heart disease, diabetes and cancer were also noted. Those people that chose to run regularly were leaner, had a healthier diet and were less likely to smoke. Even when those classified as runners entered their 90s they were still more active, capable and healthier than their non-running counterparts.

The prediction of knee replacements and osteoarthritis simply didn’t stack up. The runners continued to reap the benefits of their exercise long into their old age, proving that runners stay younger, fitter and healthier far longer than their more sedentary friends.

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