Study: Run Slower—And Less—To Live Longer

Is running fast bad for your health? Photo: Shutterstock.com

Danish researchers say “strenuous joggers have a mortality rate not statistically different from that of the sedentary group.”

Want to live longer? You might want to slow your pace down and run less, according to a new study published this month in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that a group of mostly Danish researchers looked at 12 years of data about the health habits of roughly 1,100 people who identified themselves as “joggers” from a database known as the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Participants in the study, which began in 2001, provided information about their running habits, including frequency, duration and intensity.

As part of the study, researchers compared data from the “joggers” with records of nearly 4,000 “healthy” non-joggers over the same time period and determined the “joggers” who participated in the study tended to live longer than the mostly inactive volunteers. No real surprise there.

One of the biggest surprises, however, came in the studies’ results, which stated that “compared with sedentary nonjoggers, 1 to 2.4 hours of jogging per week was associated with the lowest mortality. The optimal frequency of jogging was 2 to 3 times per week or ≤1 time per week. The optimal pace was slow or average. The joggers were divided into light, moderate, and strenuous joggers. The lowest HR (hazard rate) for mortality was found in light joggers, followed by moderate joggers and strenuous joggers.”

Further, the study concludes that, “Light and moderate joggers have lower mortality than sedentary nonjoggers, whereas strenuous joggers have a mortality rate not statistically different from that of the sedentary group.”

Interestingly, the no exact paces are specified in the study—just “slow”, “average”, and “fast” based on the volunteers’ own perceptions of their effort, and, according to the New York Times, “the number of hardcore runners in the study was quite small, consisting of barely 80 men and women. So any statistical information about death rates among that group must be viewed cautiously, the scientists acknowledge.”

So should you skip your next long run or hard workout in favor of a slow jog around the block? Maybe, maybe not—as with most things in life, the key is striking the right balance.

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