For a long time now, it has been widely acknowledged that making a daily habit out of running has proven to be extremely beneficial in terms of health. Some of the benefits to running regularly include eliminating depression, boosting confidence, relieving stress, weight management, and improving cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, a new study has found that running too much could potentially lead to a shorter lifespan.
Dr. Martin Matsumura, who is co-director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Lehigh Valley Health Network located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, was the lead author of the study. During the study, Dr. Matsumura and his colleagues looked at and reviewed information they had compiled from over 3,800 men and women runners. The group participated in the Masters Running Study, which is a web-based study of health and training data on runners aged 35 and over. Almost 70 percent of the runners reported running over 20 miles a week. The average age of the high-mileage runners was 42.
The study found that people who get no exercise and people who are considered high-mileage runners both appear to have shorter lifespans than those who run what is considered to be an average amount. Researchers behind the study added that the results as to exactly why have been so far unclear.
Dr. Matsumura stated that he and his colleagues had been unable to find any differences that could potentially explain the differences between lifespan longevity. Runners involved in the study gave data concerning their use of painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin. They also supplied information on heart risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of heart disease and history of smoking.
However, authors of the running and lifespan study did mention that these factors did not actually explain the shorter lifespans of high-mileage runners. Researchers did note that the use of painkillers was actually more common among those who were average runners, or those who ran less than 20 miles weekly.
“We still do not understand defining the optimal dose of running for longevity and health,” he said. Dr. Matsumura’s advice to high-mileage runners is to try and stay informed about any new research that comes out in the future concerning the mileage and lifespan link.
Dr. James O’Keefe, director of preventative cardiology at the Mid-American Heart Institute located in Kansas City, noted that while heart disease risk factors are unable to explain the shorter lifespan of high-mileage runners, there actually does seem to be some life-shortening effects caused from such a high amount of running.
Dr. O’Keefe reviewed the running study and through research of his own, came to the conclusion that chronic exercise may overwork the heart and cause it to “remodel,” which could then undermine some of the benefits of moderate exercise and could also potentially help contribute to a shorter lifespan. It is in Dr. O’Keefe’s opinion that the best amount of running for health is two or three times per week at a slow to moderate pace totaling one to two and a half hours a week.
By Jessica Cooley