Live Longer and Jog? Slow Down

Here I was, killing myself to run a 10-minute mile, and now, new research is saying the slower you jog, the longer you live.

We've all been taken in by the idea that the more intense exercise is, the better it is for us.  But this new study, according to The New York Times, has found that "slow runners come out ahead."

Gretchen Reynolds writes that the ideal amount of running for someone who wants to live a long and healthy life is less than most of us might expect, according to this study, which also suggests that people can overdo strenuous exercise and potentially shorten their lives.

 So, what's the deal?

There is increasing consensus among physicians and exercise scientists that people should exercise intensely at least sometimes, she points out. Past studies have found, for instance, that walkers who move at a brisk pace tend to live longer than those who stroll, even if they cover about the same distance.

A similar study with cyclists came up with the same conclusion.

In the case of this study, instead of focusing on cycling, the researchers decided to look at jogging, since it is the most popular strenuous activity worldwide.

 And the ideal amount of jogging for prolonged life, this analysis showed, was between one hour and 2.4 hours each week. And the ideal pace was slow.

In fact, the people who jogged the most frequently and at the fastest pace — who were, in effect, runners rather than joggers — did not enjoy much benefit in terms of mortality. In fact, their lifespans tended to be about the same as among people who did not exercise at all, Reynolds says.

 "You can, in other words, potentially run too much," she adds. 

Of course, she points out, there are caveats to that conclusion. The number of hardcore runners in the study was quite small, for one thing, consisting of barely 80 men and women. So any statistical information about death rates among that group must be viewed cautiously, as the scientists acknowledge. And perhaps most important, the researchers did not determine how and why the runners and non-runners died, she notes.

So the message of this study remains that sweaty exercise is generally healthy and desirable – but a little sweat goes a long ways. Even slow jogging counts as “vigorous exercise,” and can lengthen lifespans. 

Am I going to go back to my 15-minute mile?   I don't think so.  I'm not at about 12 minutes and I think that will do just fine.  


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