A study of more than 4,000 Danish men indicates that regular joggers are not only unlikely to experience a fatal heart attack during their runs, they also are less likely than non-runners to die of any cause.
During the last 30 years, jogging has become a popular form of aerobic exercise, and many runners train for races as long as a marathon (26.2 miles). Danish researchers, led by Peter Schnohr, M.D., of the University Hospital in Copenhagen, decided to study longevity among regular (persistent) joggers, non-joggers and new joggers following sporadic reports of deaths during jogging.
A total of 4,658 men, ages 20 to 79, were examined twice over 5 years by the researchers. At the first exam, 217 men said they were regular joggers. Of these, 96 were still jogging 5 years later. Between the first and second exam, 106 men started jogging; 4,335 men were non-joggers at the time of both exams.
The authors examined death rates and found that men who jogged at the time of both exams — the persistent jogger group — had a significantly lower risk of dying compared with the non-joggers or those who jogged at the time of only one of the two exams.
The effects of jogging remained strong even after researchers took into account other health factors such as smoking, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“Regular jogging is not associated with increased mortality in men, as shown by the significantly lower mortality in joggers than non-joggers,” the authors say in the study, published in the Sept. 9 issue of the British Medical Journal. “The lower mortality of joggers could be an effect of the physical training, but it could also be due to other lifestyle attributes or a combination.”
The authors note that many studies have pointed toward the health benefits of physical activity, but they add that the optimal intensity, frequency and duration have yet to be established.
“Although light exercise has some value, moderate and vigorous exercise is now considered more favorable for health,” the researchers conclude. “Our study supports this by showing that even a vigorous activity such as jogging is associated with a beneficial effect on mortality.”
Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., says frequency is important when it comes to exercise.
“This study provides more evidence that regular ‘doses’ of a consistent physical activity like jogging can make a significant difference in overall health and may contribute to a longer life span,” says Dr. Laskowski.