15 Extra Years

We would love to give you 15 extra healthy years of life, make you more intelligent, and improve your emotional mood. Hopefully these gifts will keep even our non-running readers interested and those of you that are not runners will finally decide to start.

It is a constant mystery to us that we don’t see more of you out on the roads and trails. We never have any trouble finding room to run. We rarely see anyone on the back roads of Garland Park or the former Fort Ord. The Monterey Rec trail should be completely full of runners and walkers but we typically recognize virtually everyone we see. We want to see new runners.

Many recent publications and studies again confirm the numerous health benefits of running. A continuing study from the Stanford School of Medicine tracked over 500 runners for more than 20 years. The research concluded that running slows the effects of aging; runners have fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life and are half as likely as aging nonrunners to die early deaths. Dr. James Fries, the study’s senior author said, “If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise. Runners’ initial disability as they aged was 16 years later than nonrunners.”

The effect of running on delaying death is more dramatic than the scientists expected. Running not only slowed cardiovascular deaths, but the runners had fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes. Running was also NOT associated with greater rates of osteoarthritis.

A University of Cambridge study from the United Kingdom reported that people that do aerobic exercise regularly, don’t smoke, limit their alcohol intake, and eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, on average live 15 years longer than people who didn’t have similar lifestyle habits.

A recent study at Columbia University Medical Center revealed that aerobic exercise results in tremendous benefits in brain function. If you want some technical terms, aerobic exercise generates a chemical called brain-derived neorotrophic factor (BDNF) which helps the processes involved in learning. The research found FIFTEEN to TWENTY PERCENT IMPROVEMENT in various areas of cognition. Want to improve your memory as you age or do better in school? Just run!

Earlier in the year a survey of existing research published by the Cochrane Library concluded that aerobic exercise is good for your heart and improves cognitive function—specifically, motor function, auditory attention, and memory. Psychiatrist John Ratey says that, “Even people who are overweight who start exercising see improvements in mood and cognition in as little as 12 weeks." One study found that exercise improved depression symptoms better than medication.

We know you are now eager to get out and run. You want to get your entire family out walking and running and being active. Your next question is probably “how much activity do I need?
The answer is “the more the better”, but evidence indicates that even 10 minutes of physical activity can significantly boost attention and problem-solving skills in kids and adults. A study published online earlier this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that mental health benefits were observed after 20 minutes of physical activity, though the more exercise and higher intensity, the better the effects.

If you do 30 minutes a day of running you will be giving a significant gift to your heart and your brain, as well as possibly adding those 15 important years of healthy living.

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