One of the concerns associated with doing regular strenuous exercises such as running is that while it's good for younger people, the same may not be true for those above 50 and can lead to accelerated rates of osteoarthritis. However, the findings of a new long-term study published in a recent issue of the 'Archives of Internal Medicine' appear to have assuaged such apprehensions. Research conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the US, which tracked runners for more than two decades, found that elderly people who had been jogging for most of their lives had fewer disabilities, remained fit for longer than those who didn't jog and were also half as likely to die early deaths.
Interestingly, the team worked with a somewhat different hypothesis when the study was begun in 1984, believing that regular exercise would simply help extend high-quality, disability-free life. They thought keeping the body moving wouldn't actually extend longevity, but would compress the period at the end of life when people couldn't carry out daily tasks on their own. Instead, what the researchers also found some 19 years into the study of 538 runners over the age of 50 with a similar group of non-runners, was that only 15 per cent of the former had died compared to 34 per cent of the latter.
Not only that, the runners who ran an average of about 200 minutes a week, or half an hour a day, in the beginning were still seeing multiple health benefits even though their running time had declined to an average of 76 minutes a week. The onset of disability started later for runners, for example, with the initial disability beginning 16 years after non-runners.
The effects of old age will, of course, catch up in the end but it needn't be a long and debilitating experience. The research indicates that if a person has been a regular cardio exerciser or is practising any other form of energetic physical activity for about 30 minutes a day, then he stands a decent chance to shorten the period of physical disability in old age — especially if the workouts are continued. As for older people, they needn't take up long-distance running suddenly; a brisk walk should suffice to delay the effects of ageing.
6 months ago