Regular jogging – between one and two-and-a-half hours per week at a “slow or average” pace ¬ – increased the life expectancy of men by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years, according to a study conducted by Copenhagen City Heart.
“The results of our research allow us to definitively answer the question of whether jogging is good for your health,” said Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, speaking at the “Assessing prognosis: a glimpse of the future” symposium this past May. “We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity. The good news is that you don’t actually need to do that much to reap the benefits.”
For the jogging study, the mortality of 1,116 male joggers and 762 female joggers was compared to the non-joggers in the main study population. All participants were asked to answer questions about the amount of time they spent jogging each week, and to rate their own perceptions of pace (defined as slow, average, and fast). “With participants having such a wide age span we felt that a subjective scale of intensity was the most appropriate approach,” explained Schnohr.
The first data set was collected between 1976 to 1978, the second from 1981 to 1983, the third from 1991 to 1994, and the fourth from 2001 to 2003. Analysis showed that risk of death was reduced by 44% for both male and female joggers. Further analysis found that joggers in the study revealed a U-shaped curve for the relationship between the time spent exercising and mortality.
“The relationship appears much like alcohol intakes. Mortality is lower in people reporting moderate jogging, than in non-joggers or those undertaking extreme levels of exercise,” said Schnohr. “You should aim to feel a little breathless, but not very breathless,” he advised.
Jogging, said Schnohr, delivers multiple health benefits. It improves oxygen uptake, increases insulin sensitivity, improves lipid profiles (raising HDL and lowering triglycerides), lowers blood pressure, reduces platelet aggregation, increases fibrinolysis activity, improves cardiac function, bone density, immune function, reduces inflammation markers, prevents obesity, and improves psychological function.
Ready to Get Started?
Kimberly Rapp, the assistant manager at Fleet Feet Sports, offers these tips for newbies:
- Do What Feels Comfortable: Whether it is a treadmill, a local park or school track, jog at a location where it’s comfortable and safe.
- Mix It Up: Don’t always run on the same surface – especially if your main running surface is concrete. If weather conditions allow, try a new park or trail, or integrate hills into the run.
- Join A Program: Running is like other sports – training goes a long way. A “learn to run” program helps runners build up endurance, set goals, and meet fellow newcomers. Like a Zumba or other exercise class at a gym, running with a group may help a novice to feel dedicated or committed to jogging. Designated running shops, like Fleet Feet, offer “learn to run” programs, but for introverts, there are several mobile apps, like Personal Running Trainer, which helps runners meet goals over a time period (i.e. Eight weeks to a 5k).
The Right Equipment
The key to making jogging part of an everyday routine is twofold – comfort and equipment. Just like you wouldn’t go onto a football field with a baseball bat, proper footwear is essential to running injury-free.
While at the Fleet Feet location in Brighton, NY, both my husband and I were videotaped running on a treadmill to determine the level of prolongation – how much the ankle rolls over the arch of the foot – in our running strides. My husband, who suffers from shin splints, had an inward prolongation (his weight was shifting inward), for which Rapp recommended insoles and running shoes that offer strong stability. She also advised wearing a compression sleeve on his legs and stretching to help ease the pain from the shin splints.
For myself, I tended to run more toward the balls of my feet, and Rapp suggested I look for sneakers with a lot of cushioning.
“Runners should get between 350-450 miles out of a good pair of running shoes,” said Rapp. “The mid-sole breaks down, and at that point, they’re shot.”
She said it’s the miles, not the frequency that breaks down sneakers. But how much is too much? Rapp estimated a good pair of running shoes will run about $100-$115, but maybe as important as the sneakers, good insoles (approximately $40) can be the missing link between a good pair and a custom pair.
“Insoles help with shock absorption and alignment,” said Rapp. Like the sneakers themselves, insoles also need a breaking in period. At the end of our shopping trip, I couldn’t pull the trigger on $130 Saucony Triumphs (they are on my Amazon Wish List, if anyone’s feeling generous), but my husband did feel a true difference with the insoles, just in his regular sneakers, and purchased a pair. I’m sure once he actually gets running, his shin splits will be more manageable.
–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets