Women who jog regularly live 5.6 years longer, and men 6.2 years longer than their counterparts who don’t, according to Danish researchers who presented their study – Copenhagen City Heart study – at the EuroPRevent2012 meeting.

Dr. Peter Schnohr explained that they had set out to determine how healthy or hazardous regular jogging might be. He informed that between 1 and 2.5 hours of jogging per week at a “slow” or “average” pace significantly lengthens lifespan. Dr. Schnohr is chief cardiologist of the Copenhagen City Heart Study.

Schnohr said:

“The results of our research allow us to definitively answer the question of whether jogging is good for your health. 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.”

The controversy over the pros and cons of jogging started off about 40 years ago, when middle-aged men started taking up running in large numbers.

Schnohr said:

“After a few men died while out on a run, various newspapers suggested that jogging might be too strenuous for ordinary middle aged people.”

Running and jogging woman o a small road
Jogging can help you live longer

The Copenhagen City Heart study is a prospective cardiovascular population study involving approximately 20,000 adults of both sexes aged from 20 to 93 years. The study started in 1976.

The researchers gathered data from the Copenhagen Population Register, which was aimed at finding out more about stroke and cardiovascular disease prevention.

The study has resulted in over 750 papers being published, and has widened out to include other diseases, such as dementia, sleep-apnea, epilepsy, allergies, pulmonary diseases and heart failure. The researchers have looked into what links various forms of exercises might have with lifespans.

In this jogging sub-study, they compared 1,116 male and 762 female joggers to a much larger number of non-jogging counterparts.
Those who took part had to report on how much time they spent jogging each week, and at what speed – slow, average, or fast.

Dr. Schnohr said:

“With participants having such a wide age span we felt that a subjective scale of intensity was the most appropriate approach.”

Data was collected over four periods – 1976-1978, 1981-1983, 1991-1994 and 2001-2003.

Over a maximum of 35 years, the researchers found that:

  • Risk of death for male joggers was 44% lower than for non-jogging males (age-adjusted hazard ratio 0.56)
  • Risk of death for female joggers was 44% lower than for non-jogging females (age-adjusted hazard ratio 0.56)
  • Male joggers lived 6.2 years longer than non-jogging males
  • Female joggers lived 5.6 years longer than non-jogging females

Best health and survival benefits were derived from 1 to 2.5 hours jogging per week, over two or three sessions. The ideal pace for best benefits was slow or average speeds.

Schnohr said:

“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. You should aim to feel a little breathless, but not very breathless.”

According to Schnohr, the following benefits have been linked to regular jogging:

  • Improved lipid profiles (raising HDL and lowering triglycerides)
  • Improved bone density
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved oxygen uptake
  • Improved cardiac function
  • Improved psychological function
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Increased fibrinolytic activity
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better body weight control
  • Reduced platelet aggregation
  • Reduced inflammation markers

Schnohr said:

“The improved psychological wellbeing may be down to fact that people have more social interactions when they’re out jogging.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist