Run, don’t walk, into your senior years
If you’re looking for the Fountain of Youth, it turns out that all you may need is your own two feet and a good pair of running shoes.
According to a new study from the University of Colorado Boulder and Humbolt State University in St. Arcata, Calif., seniors who run several times a week had the metabolism of a person in their 20s.
The research, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, studied 30 adults over the age of 69 who reported running or walking for exercise at least three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. The researchers then measured the subjects’ oxygen consumption, a key indicator of how efficiently a person’s body is using energy and hour efficiently their metabolism is working, found those who ran expend about the same amount of energy walking as an average 20-year-old.
Those who walked for exercise were found to expend the same amount of energy as those seniors who didn’t exercise regularly.
“The bottom line is that running keeps you younger, at least in terms of energy efficiency,” said Rodger Kram, associate professor of CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology and co-author on the study, in a statement.
“Being an avid runner myself, I know personally how being active keeps me young,” he says. “I definitely stress all the health benefits of running to my patients, even as the winter weather sets in.”
Dr. Crotteau says getting your exercise by walking still has many health benefits, including decreasing your risk for heart disease and stroke, helping to avoid weight gain and assisting with depression. However, he says that, according to the results of this study, it appears walking doesn’t have a direct metabolic benefit to seemingly slow the aging process.
Dr. Kram says that, because he and his fellow researchers didn’t find any external biomechanical differences between the older walkers and runners, they theorize the higher efficiency of senior runners comes directly from the cells in their muscles.
He says that they believe mitochondria are involved. Mitochondria, small bodies found inside cells known as the cell “powerhouses,” generate the chemical energy adenosine triphosphate, which powers muscle fibers for activities like movement, including running. Those who work out regularly generally have more mitochondria in their cells, providing more energy to power larger muscles, Dr. Kram says.
“Including running in your exercise regimen might provide benefits beyond the known cardiovascular improvements many runners see,” says Dr. Crotteau. “Of course, it certainly makes sense for anyone contemplating a significant increase in the intensity of their workouts to consult with their primary care physicians.
“This is just one more reason to hit the treadmill, running path or trail and sweat it out, no matter your age.”
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