Running six miles per week appears to improve longevity by three to six years and reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, according to a review of research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
A distinguished group of U.S.-based cardiologists, exercise physiologists, and epidemiologists collaborated on the review. It contains no new material or research, but summarizes results of the best, large-scale studies on runners. All of the studies included at least 500 runners and at least five years of follow-up.
Most of the paper's conclusions are unsurprising. Running improves weight management, blood pressure, and glucose control, and lowers the risk of some cancers, respiratory disease, stroke, benign prostatic hypertrophy, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
Other conclusions are perhaps less expected.
"Paradoxically, and contrary to popular belief, running is associated with lower rates of osteoarthritis and need for hip replacement," lead author Chip Lavie, MD, said in a video accompanying the report's publication.
Likewise, a continuing Stanford University study of longtime runners has shown that the older the runners get, the greater their advantage compared to non-runners of the same age on a disability index of common life activities. In other words, running doesn't cripple the musculoskeletal system, but makes it more robust.
The Mayo Clinic Proceedings article finds that it takes little running per week to reach the optimal benefit for improved longevity. The authors pin the numbers at about six miles per week, or about 52 minutes of running, achieved in just one or two workouts per week. This amount of running is associated with a lifespan three to six years longer than that of non-runners.