June 29 2016

Jogging, Running, Exercise, Longevity

A really interesting study about exercise came out of Denmark and was published in the Journal of  the American College of Cardiology in Spring 2015. It suggests that even just light exercise is helpful for improving longevity and that actually “more might not be better.”  Yet another good life lesson.

Here are my take home points:

  • The goal of the study was to look at the pace, amount and frequency of jogging and how this relates to mortality/length of life.
  • To determine this, 1098 healthy joggers and 3950 healthy non-exercisers ages 20-86 years old, were followed for 12 years starting in 2001.
  • The joggers were further divided into 3 groups: light joggers, moderate joggers, and strenuous joggers.
  • Not surprisingly, the results revealed that those who jog regularly have increased longevity than those who don’t exercise; (past studies have shown that those who exercise have about a  30% lower risk of death compared to inactive individuals).
  • What MIGHT be surprising, though, is that the results also showed that those who jog lightly or moderately appear to benefit MORE than strenuous joggers.
  • 1 to 2.5 hrs a week, 2-3 times a week,  at a slow pace (around 5 miles/hr) was amount, frequency, and pace that appeared to be most beneficial for longevity.
  • Of note, this study only looked as the exercise of jogging/running and not other forms of exercise, so we can’t extrapolate these findings of “lighter exercise  being better than strenuous exercise” to other types of exercise, at least based on this study.

Bottom line

This study I think is most helpful in that people can see that even just light jogging can be profoundly beneficial for increasing health/longevity. And again, more (at least when it comes to running and mortality) might not be better!

Some personal thoughts on the study

Writing exercise prescriptions in clinic and with my private clients is one of my favorite things to do. This is because exercise is truly a miracle drug and unlike many medicine prescriptions, its “side effects” are overwhelmingly positive.

With exercise prescriptions, it is imperative to me that I choose as a recommendation an exercise that the patient or client enjoys for the simple reason that exercise regimens that are not enjoyed don’t last for very long. Humans as a general rule, are not motivated in the long-term by pain or boredom, but give someone an exercise prescription in a movement type that she or he has fun doing, and the results can be astounding.

I have a lot of patients and clients who run/jog but few do it regularly and when I probe further, it is almost always because they don’t enjoy it…more specifically they don’t enjoy the expectations and “story” around it. What do I mean? Jogging/running often comes along with a lot of “shoulds.” How long one “should” be running, how fast one “should” be running, how one “should” feel when running (usually it’s struggling for breath and regretful about deciding to put one’s running shoes in the first place). I rarely see the same expectations put on other exercises like dancing or rebounding or jumping rope or even swimming. And unsurprisingly, I’ve found more people seem to have more fun doing these other exercises.

So what I recommend for anyone who is open to jogging/running (which I love also for its minimalism— you just need a path to run and a pair of shoes and the latter is arguable) is the following.  Release all expectations about how long and how fast you should be running. Release the expectation that it will be painful. Simply lace up your shoes and if possible, go out into fresh air And then just run with a sense of openness and curiosity. Include some skipping when it feels good, walk when you want to, sprint up hills, cartwheel down a path, and just return time and again to jogging. And as the above study shows, even if you’re jogging “slowly” or not very far, it’s better than okay.  Just have a great time doing it, and you’ll feel the endorphins, find you want to do it more often, and the side effect of a longer, healthier life will sneak up on you.

Quick Quiz

Dance Link

Rest is just as vital as movement. This piece is called Resting Pulses. Please enjoy!

Choreography: Tumi Johnson

Dancer: Tumi Johnson

Sound: C Major Prelude by J.S. Bach; "The Rooftop"  (Poem by Tumi Johnson)

Videography: Žare Manojlovič

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