Run­ning Delays Dis­abil­ity in Older Per­sons

Novem­ber 11, 2002 Reuters Health, reports on a study pub­lished in the Novem­ber 11th issue of the Archives of Inter­nal Med­i­cine that shows that run­ning and other aer­o­bic exer­cise seem to help older peo­ple stave off dis­abil­ity and live longer. Dr. Ben­jamin W. E. Wang, from the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee in Mem­phis and author of the study states, “In elderly peo­ple, the devel­op­ment of dis­abil­ity can be delayed, or pushed back, with aer­o­bic exer­cise, includ­ing run­ning.” He goes on to say, “In addi­tion, those who exer­cised reg­u­larly lived longer and had lower rates of fatal can­cers, heart dis­ease and other conditions.”

The study was per­formed on 370 mem­bers of a run­ning club and 249 peo­ple who did not belong to a run­ning club. All of the sub­jects were at least 50 years of age. Each year the sub­jects were asked to com­plete a ques­tion­naire that assessed the pres­ence and sever­ity of dis­abil­ity in sev­eral activ­i­ties of daily liv­ing. The research showed that run­ning club mem­bers were sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to develop a dis­abil­ity than those who were not run­ning club mem­bers. Addi­tion­ally, when run­ning club mem­bers did develop a dis­abil­ity, the onset was usu­ally delayed. On aver­age, dis­abil­i­ties devel­oped in run­ning club mem­bers nearly 9 years later than in non-​members.

The news was even more impact­ing when researchers looked at the death rates. In addi­tion to post­pon­ing dis­abil­ity, run­ning and phys­i­cal exer­cise showed a higher sur­vival rate, accord­ing to the report. Run­ning club mem­bers were less likely to die dur­ing the study period than peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in other aer­o­bic activ­i­ties. The study showed that non-​club mem­bers were 3.3 times more likely to die dur­ing the study period, not just from dis­eases clearly linked to lifestyle, such as heart dis­ease, but from all types of ill­nesses. Accord­ing to Dr. Wang, the ben­e­fits of run­ning and other aer­o­bic exer­cise “appeared even in those who began exer­cis­ing in mid-​life.”

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