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Running may be the most effective form of exercise for increasing longevity, according to a study published in 2017. The review analysed data and results of previous studies into the associations between longevity and different forms of exercise.
Strikingly, running was associated with a reduced risk of premature mortalilty of up to 40%, and an average of three additional years of life expectancy. This association remained true when other health factors were controlled for.
It is interesting to note that while other forms of exercise such as cycling were associated with increased life expectancy, none seemed to match the longevity benefits of running, even those of similar intensity.
The idea is sometimes put forward that the time consumed by running is roughly equal to life expectancy gained. Not only does this idea overlook the matter of healthy lifespan (those who exercise remain healthier with better quality of life in old age), but the research also suggested that it is untrue. The study reported that one hour of running statistically equated to seven hours of increased life expectancy, with benefits plateauing at 4 hours a week.
This research does come with an important caveat: all findings are associative, and so it cannot be said for certain that running causes increased life expectancy. Those exercising regularly are likely to care about their health and engage in other activities that promote longevity. While research aims to statistically remove these confounding factors, doing so effectively is challenging.
Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity: doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2017.03.005
An Hour of Running May Add 7 Hours to Your Life: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/12/well/move/an-hour-of-running-may-add-seven-hours-to-your-life.html