Runners live longer than non-runners

Published: Friday, 27 July 2012

The study, conducted by researchers at the Ochsner Health System of New Orleans and University of South Carolina, analysed the link between running and cardiovascular-related deaths in 53,000 adults.

They presented the results of their study at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in San Francisco.

The participants ranged between the ages of 20 and 100 and had undergone a medical exam between 1971 and 2003. None had heart disease, cancer or diabetes at the start of the study.

The researchers collected their information from questionnaires sent to the participants, on which they reported their leisure-time activities, including their running habits. About 27% reported that they ran.

"Using data from the National Death Index we found that the runners had about a 20% lower mortality rate than did the non-runners," said Professor Carl Lavie, lead researcher and a Professor of Medicine at The University of Queensland Ochsner Clinical School and Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, in New Orleans.

The study did not report a complete home-run for the runners. Running lowered the risk for mortality when a runner did not exceed more than 32 kilometers a week, log more than 8 to 11 kilometers per hour, or run more than two to five times a week, the authors reported.

"Although higher doses [of running] are not associated with worse outcomes when compared with non-runners, those with higher doses of distance, frequency and speed seemed to lose the survival advantage gained at lower doses of running," Professor Lavie noted.

A second study Professor Lavie was involved with reviewed the scientific literature on the effect of extreme endurance training- such as that performed by marathoners, triathletes and professional cyclists-and found it can lead to long-term heart damage.

"There's probably nothing better a person can do for himself for his long-term health than daily exercise," said Professor James O'Keefe, lead author of the second study and a Professor of Medicine at the University of Missouri and Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City.

"But if you train more than the cardiovascular system is designed to handle, you can tax your heart and do damage."

He pointed out that the certain cardiovascular biomarkers become elevated during extreme training in some athletes.

"Even though they go back to normal within a week, over months and years, the elevations may lead to heart damage and increased susceptibility to certain types of arrhythmias," Professor O'Keefe said.

MEDIA: Brian Mallon, Communication Officer School of Medicine, 0403621109/07 3365 5254