Run Forrest, Run!

By Timothy Sullivan – Rumford

Popular medical opinion goes back and forth regarding the benefits of running and a person’s overall health. Recent studies clearly show that running has positive effects on the body, mind, and mortality when conducted responsibly, regardless of the age or condition of the runner.

Running (aerobic exercise) benefits the minds of young people more than weight status during adolescence. A recently published study in the Journal of Pediatrics (February 2013) tested 11,743 students from 47 Nebraska public schools on their aerobic fitness and compared standardized mathematics and reading scores with measurements of Body Mass Index (BMI), free/reduced lunch status, sex, race, grade level, and school type in order to determine the best strategies school systems should take to maximize overall student test scores. The conclusions found that “Aerobic fitness was a significant predictor of academic performance; weight status was not.” It goes on to say, “Weight status…was not a significant predictor of passing the…math or reading tests…to improve academic performance, school systems should focus on the aerobic fitness of every student.”

When distance running became a more popular recreational activity back in the early 80s, there were critics who believed that distance running would result in people wearing out their bodies and dropping dead at a younger age than non-distance runners. In response to this question, a long-term study was set up to evaluate the effects of running on mortality over a long period of time.

Dr. James F. Fries (et a) conducted a test starting in 1984 which surveyed 538 members of a Northern California running club along with a control group of 423 non-runners from the same area for comparison. In 2003 (21 years later), 284 runners and 156 controls completed the same survey and the results were compared over time. The conclusion of the study reads as follows: “Vigorous exercise (running) at middle and older ages is associated with reduced disability in later life and a notable survival advantage.” ARCH INTERN MED/VOL 168 (NO.15), AUG 11/25,2008

One of the early critics of the benefits of aerobic exercise is a cardiologist named Dr. James O’Keefe. Despite several published works regarding the dangers that extreme aerobic exercise puts on the heart and blood vessels, he writes of the benefits to limited aerobic exercise in his article “Run for your life…at a comfortable speed and not too far.” In it he cites the results of a study published in 2011 that says “in a study of 416,000 adults followed for a mean of 8 years, 40-50 min per day of vigorous exercise reduced risk of death by about 40%.” The study cites that runners whose average weekly running mileage ranges between 10-20 miles gain the greatest advantage from their exercise when measured in terms of all-cause mortality.

The bottom line is that whether you are young, middle-aged or older, aerobic exercise (running in particular) when performed in moderation (between 30-50 minutes per day) can help your brain’s performance, and improve overall mortality risk over time.

Timothy Sullivan is a wellness broker who began writing wellness articles in 2009. As a lifelong enthusiast for wellness, he saw the need to publicize recent and current medical study results, translated into terms that ordinary people could understand and apply to their everyday lives. Among his accomplishments, he has developed a unique, low-tech method for gauging overall aggregate wellness in the workplace, and is the founder of Life Panel Inc., a wellness brokerage firm (


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