For every hour spent running, your lifespan increases by an average of seven hours, up to a maximum of about three years, according to a study at Iowa State University.
The findings remained true regardless of running speed or frequency or other lifestyle factors such as alcohol and tobacco consumption.
The researchers looked at data from a number of sources examining the link between mortality and fitness. In the largest of these studies, volunteers ran for an average of two hours a week, or for a total of six months over a period of 40 years. This resulted in a net gain of 2.8 years (having subtracted the time spent running).
Writing in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, they said that if every non-runner in the study took up running, there would have been 16 per cent fewer deaths during the observation period, and 25 per cent fewer fatal heart attacks.
They concluded that improvements in life expectancy levelled off at about four hours of running a week. They found that other forms of exercise were also beneficial, saying that walking and cycling reduced the risk of premature death by about 12 per cent.
What is important to remember when interpreting this study is that generally people who run regularly will also have other components to their lifestyle which will undoubtedly affect their longevity as well. No matter how hard we try to account for these variables, it is hard to do this completely. This study suggests, however, that running seems to outdo other forms of cardiovascular exercise in these respects, but it cannot tell us why or whether this is a cause rather than simply an association.
Research score: 3/5