Run for Your Life, Literally
If you've been following the Olympics recently, you may have been inspired to get more involved in physical activity yourself.
We already know how great exercise is for our heart, but a new study carried out by Stanford University School of Medicine showed that regular running slows the aging process.
The study investigated 538 older runners, comparing them with 423 non-runners, to look at the differences in their health and activities over a period of 19 years. The study also took into consideration their everyday activities such as walking, dressing, getting out of a chair, and gripping objects.
The study found that:
- Runners are less likely to have disabilities, and reached the onset of disability later than non-runners.
- Runners are more active when they reach their 70s and 80s.
- Runners were 50% less likely to die early.
- After almost 19 years, 34% of the non-runners had died, while only 15% of the runners had died.
Researchers conclude that regular running reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, and neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's.
Isn't vigorous exercise unsafe for older folks?
It's true that many people still believe vigorous exercise can do more harm than good in the older generation. When this study began in 1984, many scientists were of the same opinion.
However, James Fries was sure that regular exercise would extend high-quality, disability-free life. He speculated that keeping the body moving wouldn't necessarily extend longevity, but it would compress the period at the end of life when people couldn't carry out daily tasks on their own. That idea came to be known as "the compression of morbidity theory."
This team of researchers previously published a study, which showed that running was not associated with greater rates of osteoarthritis in elderly runners.
James Fries also states that running appears to be safer on the joints than other high-impact sports such as football, or standing in unnatural motions for example in ballet.
James Fries, MD, and senior author said, "The study has a very pro-exercise message...if you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise."
This is exercise that conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the efficiency of the body's oxygen use. For an effective workout you should be exercising enough to raise your heart rate, but still able to carry on a conversation.
Aerobic exercise examples include:
- Speed walking
- Aerobics classes
- Climbing stairs
If you'd like to be a little more active, check out this 1-hour plan:
- 5 minutes - Slowly walking (biking/swimming etc)
- 5 minutes - A little faster
- 5 minutes - At a pace just below your intended workout
- 30 minutes speed walking
- With bursts of sprinting at intervals throughout
Cool down period:
- 5 minutes - At a pace just below your workout
- 5 minutes - A little slower
- 5 minutes - Slowly walking
Stretch to finish the routine
Remember, carrying out an exercise routine in a moderate, frequent, and consistent manner will give results in the long run. Take it bit by bit, but most of all, enjoy what you do!
Please note, this is merely an example, and will not suit everyone, nor was it intended to. You can substitute the times and activities to suit your own level of fitness.
Melanie Thomassian is a professional dietitian, and author of the award winning dietriffic.com.