Run Your Way to Youthful Energy: How Jogging Keeps Seniors Sprightly!

Everyone wants to stay young, vibrant, and healthy as they age, and now there’s a scientifically proven way to do just that. A study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University reveals that consistently running several times a week can bring about muscle changes that function similarly to those of young adults in their 20s.

The Secret to Energetic Aging

The research discovered that older adults who jog regularly maintain more efficient muscles than those who don’t exercise or only walk for exercise. According to Rodger Kram, a researcher and teacher in the Department of Integrative Physiology, “the bottom line is that running keeps you younger, at least in terms of energy efficiency.”

The Study That Revealed the Benefits of Running

The study’s focus was on 30 men and women in their 60s and 70s, who consistently engaged in either walking or running sessions. Each participant had been walking or running for at least three times a week, 30 minutes a session, for a total of six months before the research started.

Researchers note that Boulder, Colorado, where the study was conducted, is an international hotspot for running and boasts a large population of senior runners, making it an ideal location for this type of study.

Not All Exercise Is Created Equal

The researchers found that older adults who routinely participated in highly aerobic activities, particularly running, had a lower metabolic cost of walking compared to older, sedentary adults and seniors who regularly walked for exercise.

It has been understood for a long time that as people age, their maximum aerobic capacity declines. This results in a decrease in “horsepower”. Interestingly, while their horsepower does decline, older runners maintained their “fuel economy”.

Unfortunately, the same results were not observed in those who only walked for exercise. “Walking for exercise has many positive health effects, like fending off heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and depression, but walking efficiency does not seem to be one of them,” states Kram. It’s because no external biomechanical differences were found between the older walkers and runners, that researchers suspect the higher efficiency of senior runners comes from their muscle cells.

How Running Benefits Your Body

We now know that running provides optimal fuel economy as you age, but how does it stack up against other forms of exercise? One major advantage is cardiovascular health. Running helps your arteries maintain their elasticity and strengthens the heart, thus lowering blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology depicted that just an hour of running per week resulted in a 45% decrease in the risk of heart disease compared to not running at all.

Similarly, running aids in weight loss and increasing bone density. While walking 4 miles burns more calories than running 3 miles, it takes twice as long. Consequently, running helps cut the same calories in half the time. Running also works wonders for bone density, as it applies stress on the bones, causing them to reinforce their internal structure. This can be especially advantageous for post-menopausal women, as they are more prone to a loss in bone density.

Running and Mental Health

Apart from physical benefits, running plays a significant role in mental health by reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. As you run, your body releases endorphins that reduce pain and provide a sense of euphoria, also known as a “runner’s high”. Additionally, cardiovascular exercise can reduce anxiety through regulation of the brain-derived protein and stimulation of new nerve cell growth. Endurance activities like running essentially rewire the brain to reduce anxiety levels.

A Golden Rule for Running

Clearly, the benefits of running for older adults, especially concerning muscle efficiency, are immense. However, it’s essential to keep any physical limitations in mind. Experts recommend starting slow and gradually increasing the distance, time, and intensity of your runs. The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Whether you split this up into three 10-minute sessions or three 30-minute sessions, consistency is key.

While everyone is different and may adapt to running at different rates, one thing remains clear: running can help keep you young for years to come.