Reason I Run #3: Extended Lifespan

Running is a very healthy hobby. Ask any runner and we’ll be happy to tell you all about it. And if you’d rather not hear a dissertation about the joys of fitness, a quick glance at a runner’s Twitter or Instagram feed tells the story: early mornings, healthy food choices, split times, before and after pics, etc. It’s enough to make our non-running friends roll their eyes in disgust at our collective smugness. When we’re not around, I imagine they shovel deliciously unhealthy cheeseburgers into their mouths and talk about how running can’t really be that healthy.

Oh yeah? Well, the New York Times recently published an article about a scientific study that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt how much better runners are than everyone else. Okay, the piece didn’t reach that particular conclusion. What it did say was that running was, “the single most effective exercise to increase life expectancy.”

That’s right… suck it, doubters!

2014 B.A.A. Boston Marathon
Nothing to see here… just a bunch of runners, adding years to their lives.

And you don’t even have to be good at running for it to be good for you. “The data indicated that running, whatever someone’s pace or mileage, dropped a person’s risk of premature death by almost 40 percent.”

The study was published last month in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, a publication I used to read religiously before the editorials went downhill and I let my subscription lapse. The researchers even went as far as attaching some hard numbers to the benefits of running. According to the researchers, “an hour of running statistically lengthens life expectancy by seven hours.”

As I read this overwhelmingly exciting news, I started doing the math…

There are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, which means 8,760 hours in a year. Divide that number by 7 (the number of hours a runner adds to his or her life) we arrive at roughly 1,251. So for every 1,251 hours of running, we add a whole year of life.

All I’d have to do is run 1,251 hours in a year (which works out to 24 hours a week) to continue to add whole years to my life. Now let’s assume that with no running, I’d live to be at least 85, which is actually a good estimate based on my genes. (I had a great-grandmother who lived to be 100.) If I can run 24 hours a week from now (I’m just about to turn 43) until the time I’m 70, I’d add 27 years to my life. Add that 27 to the 85 I’m easily going reach anyway and we arrive at 112 years.

I know. Twenty-four hours a week is a lot of running. To maintain that schedule I’d probably have to quit my job and have a massage therapist on retainer, but it’s a small price to pay for that much extra time.

This is what I imagine I’ll look like at 112 years of age.

I was ecstatic about my newfound ability to avoid death… until I continued on with the NYT article.

“Of course, these additions ‘are not infinite,’ Dr. Lee says. Running does not make people immortal. The gains in life expectancy are capped at around three extra years, he says, however much people run.”


For a few fleeting minutes I thought I’d finally figured out a fool-proof way to extend my lifespan and put off my inevitable journey into eternal darkness. But alas, the best case scenario is prolonging my time on earth by three measly years.

Running may not enable me to live forever, but I guess it’s helping me live a little longer and presumably adding quality to the years I am alive. I guess that’s something. But I might have to re-up my subscription to Progress in Cardiovascular Disease so I can track the latest scientific breakthroughs in life expectancy. I really want to figure out a way to get to 112.

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