OLDER RUNNERS APPEAR TO POSTPONE DISABILITY, HAVE LOWER MORTALITY
Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
A study from Stanford University in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that older people who run and participate in other aerobic activities are less likely to die than people who do not run. Non-runners were more than three times more likely to die than runners, but that is not the exciting news. The more important finding is that older men and women who exercise regularly are far less likely to suffer any form of disability than people who do not exercise.
How long you live is not as important as the quality of your life while you are alive. Most Americans over 70 cannot run or even walk fast. Most Americans over 70 can't lift a 25 pound weight over their heads. Most Americans over 70 cannot do common household tasks that require strength, such as fixing a stuck door, removing leaves or snow from their driveways or lifting heavy objects. Regular runners over 70 could do all of these tasks and much more. The researchers studied 370 member of a runners club for people aged 50 years and older, and 249 community members who did not belong to the running club. They were between 50 and 72 years of age at the start of the 13-year study. The runners had far lower death rates, which was expected, and far less disability, such as osteoarthritis, which is impressive.
At the 13-year follow up, the average age of the running club group was 70.9 years and the average age of the community controls was 73.6 years. The running club members had far fewer medical problems than the non-club members, and the non runners were in such poor health by comparison that they appeared to be living in a different community. In addition, the rate of progression to various levels of disability was much slower among runner's club members than the control group. The authors concluded that "with healthy lifestyles, disability can be postponed until a few years before death, when it develops at an increasing rate."