Running (jogging) Not Walking, Keeps You Young and Fit (study)

JogWithYourKidWhat I was taught in college, 40 years ago, was that to maintain cardiovascular health we needed to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week at an intensity that got our heart rate (HR) into the training zone (60-80% of maximum HR). To know your maximum HR subtract your age from 220.

(example if you are 50, your maximum HR is 220-50=170, and your training zone would be
170 x 0.6 = 102  to 170×0.7 = 119).  If you are 20, your maximum heart rate is 200 and training range is 140-160.

In the article “Running for exercise mitigates age-related deterioration of walking economy”, (which you can read here… ) they point out that walking performance is a key indicator of morbidity (worse health).  They compared older individuals (average age 69) who walked three times a week to those who ran three times a week for at least 30 minutes. They found that the runners had the same walking economy (energy used in walking) as individuals in their 20’s and this was not the case for the regular walkers. Another set of studies compared gait speed to longevity. You can read that here…

Prior research “Aging among elite distance runners: a 22-yr longitudinal study” (read more here… ) has shown differences in maximum oxygen uptake (VO max) based on levels of ongoing exercise. This study showed that VO max capacity was lost at rates of:

  • 6% per decade in highly trained
  • 10% per decade in fit trained
  • 15% per decade in untrained individuals.

From age 20 to age 60 one would see a difference of 24% decline in the fit trained and 60% decline in the untrained.

Should you get out and get your heart rate into the training zone 3-4 times a week?  I guess it depends on the quality of life you want to have as you age.  The choice is yours.  There is a cost to having a sedentary life-style. To stay as vibrant as you are in your 20’s, you need to add exercise at an intensity that gets your heart rate up for a minimum of 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week.

If you are a walker, keep walking. There are plenty of studies showing benefit from any and all forms and intensity levels of exercise. This study is just that prod to take it up a notch if you are able.


Dr. Paul



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