Yesterday was a good day. I completed my first “longish” run since the Grand Slam.
My heart beat 34,020 times. Not a big deal given the average human heart beats around 2.5 billion times in a lifetime, plus or minus. I did the math...I used about .00136% of my total lifetime beats doing this run. (4 hours and 12 minutes with a recorded average heart hate of 135 beats per minute, or 252 minutes x 135 bpm = 34,020/2.5 billion=.00136%).
Which begs the question. Was the run worth it? Was it worth using .00135% of my lifetime beats? Or, more specifically to the doubters out there, is running in general really worth it? The answers, my friends, are rather elementary.
First there is the empirically based answer, supported by facts and figures, which is best used for non-runners, AKA the doubters. This is the type of answer given when the question is cloaked in the belief that running damages the knees and causes arthritis, among other things. But to get to an empirically based answer, you have to start with an empirically based question, like does running keep you young and/or prolong life?
What’s noteworthy here is the science. A few studies that touch on the topic include the Stanford Study on Runners and Aging and this article on The Science of Running, to name just two. But the fact is there are dozens on the topic. All pretty much saying the same thing – that running keeps you young, by slowing down the aging process.
We all know the obvious benefits of running – that it builds a stronger heart, improves our cardio vascular system and helps with weight management. But how does running slow the aging process? Turns out that the benefits of running extend all the way down to the cellular level. Down to the telomeres, which are the protective caps on our DNA. Telomeres tend to shrink with age, which causes a downward spiral in ability to reproduce cells that keep our bodies going.
Running slows this process. Studies show that there was no significant difference in the length of telomeres between people age 55 to 72 who have exercised their entire lives and younger people. Conversely, sedentary people in the same age group showed significantly shorter telomeres compared to younger people. What does this mean? Running equals DNA health and longevity.
If running keeps you young, does it prolong life? The Stanford Study states that “the effect of running on delaying death has also been more dramatic than the scientists expected. Not surprisingly, running has slowed cardiovascular deaths. However, it has also been associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.”
Then there is the reality based answer supported by your own experience as a runner. Which, when asked if running is really worth it, goes something like “if you understand, no words are needed. If you don’t, there are not enough words to explain. Thanks for asking though."