September 19, 2022. Happy Birthday to Bruce Springsteen: he turns 73 this week. I turned that number a few months ago and all I gotta say is, baby, we were born to run. Or at least walk briskly. At any age. Here are my Top 5 Reasons To Run
#5: No Weight Gain When You Overeat During the Holidays
Yes, the year-end weight-gaining season is almost here. So here’s an interesting study published in the Journal of Physiology. It concluded: “Vigorous-intensity exercise counteracted most of the effects of short-term overfeeding and under-activity at the whole-body level and in adipose tissue, even in the face of a standardised energy surplus.
In the experiment, two groups of healthy runners were overfed. The control group was told to stop running. The other group continued to run, but they were overfed even more – by a quantity of calories that offset the calories they burned by running. So both groups had the same “energy surplus”. When all was fed and run, the control group showed increased glucose intolerance and gained weight and converted much of it to fat. The group that maintained their running habit: no changes. No weight gain. No new fat. None of the usual consequences of gobbling down too much turkey, ham, roast beef and dessert. Happy holidays!
#4:Long-Time Runners Have Reduced Risk for Knee Injury
Yup. Stronger knees, not weaker. If worrying about the long-term impact on your knees and other joints was your rationale for avoiding running, well, don’t worry about it. This research published in the journal Age concluded “life-long regular endurance running can partly counteract the aging process in connective tissue by reducing age-related accumulation of AGEs [advanced glycation end products]. This may not only benefit skin and tendon but also other long-lived protein tissues in the body. Furthermore, it appears that endurance running yields tendon tissue hypertrophy that may serve to lower the stress on the tendon and thereby reduce the risk of injury.
Just in case you quickly scanned the technical-sounding quote and missed this, let me point out that the beneficiaries of running included not only tendons but skin. And not just the skin around your knees. Everywhere. And speaking of skin
#3: Younger Skin in the Game
As we age, so does our skin. What we see is what we get: the outer layer of mostly dead skin cells (your epidermis) gets thicker, drier and denser. The layer beneath that (your dermis) gets thinner and loses its elasticity. That is, it loses its ability to support and plump up the outer layer – which starts to, um, sag as a result.
After observing the reversal of this process in treadmill-running mice, the exercise physiologists at McMaster University in Ontario did an experiment with humans. In brief, they biopsied skin samples of men and women between the ages of 20 and 84. The younger skin: more dermis, less epidermis. The older skin: more epidermis, less dermis. Then they put the over-65 volunteers on a moderate jogging schedule: two 30-minute runs per week for three months. At which point the doctors took and examined new biopsies. Guess what they saw. The post-exercise old skin looked a whole lot like the young skin samples. If you’re interested, the results of this research and much more are in this DVD, “Exercise as a Countermeasure for Aging: From Mice to Humans.
#2: Younger, Better Brain
This study published in the The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that adults in their 50s and 60s who walked 40 minutes three times a week actually increased the size of their brains’ hippocampus. That’s the area where memories are formed. And they performed better in spatial memory tests. Which means you’re less likely to get lost when you’re out running or walking.
“Physical activity in older adults improves psychomotor processing abilities and is associated with greater brain activation… even for moderate levels and even when started late in life. The Journals of Gerontology
In The Roadmap to 100, Dr. Robert Bortz describes the participants in a 4-hour per week exercise program: “The MRI results were stunning. In parts of each subject’s brain, the blood volume [and its oxygen] had nearly doubled after a mere 12 weeks on the exercise regimen … Mental performance in the human body can be improved by “feeding” the brain extra oxygen … A decrease in the oxygen supply to the brain creates conditions like tiredness, depression, irritability, poor judgment and a variety of health problems. Increasing the oxygen supply to the brain and nervous system can remedy these conditions.
#1: Live Longer
Six years longer with your Better brain, skin, knees and holiday feasts. This report from the ongoing, long-term Copenhagen City Heart Study has a catchy title: “Regular jogging shows dramatic increase in life expectancy“
How dramatic? Six years of extra life. 6.2 more for men who jog; 5.6 more for women who jog. Compared to men and women who don’t exercise. How regular? Between 1 and 2.5 hours per week.
How fast? Slower, actually. The participants who reported their pace to be “slow” or “moderate” show the greatest increase in longevity.
Put on your running shoes. This is for tramps like us.
Every Thing Is Everything
“Results showed that most people were gaining weight gradually over time, with the average American adult gaining 1 to 2 lb per year … small changes in energy intake and expenditure adding up to 100 kcal/day could arrest excess weight gain in most people.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Yup, knocking off 100 calories a day is enough to stop weight gain and waist gain for most of us. That’s a brisk 20-minute walk.
Let’s Do The Math
2 x 20. Yup. 40. 40 lbs if you let this happen for 20 years. Start when you’re 30. Look down when you’re 50. Hey, where are my feet?.
But wait, there’s more.
“Although previous studies have found enhanced mood for up to an hour after exercise, this study found benefits for up to 12 hours following activity, compared to the resting group…
Test subjects performed exercise at 60 percent of aerobic capacity, indicating that moderate-intensity exercise – like walking or light cycling – is enough to boost mood.”
“Boost Your Mood at Least Half the Day with Physical Activity”, American College of Sports Medicine