Run and live longer!

How about Longevity, Health, Wealth and Happiness as a New Year Resolution?

This is the Longevity! – Running ‘reduces risk of early death’ study report….and it doesn’t seem to matter how little you do, even once a week it all helps, any running was linked with a 27% reduced risk of dying from any cause compared with no running!

This recent study from Victoria University, University of Sydney and University of Southern Queensland in Australia and other institutions in Thailand, Austria and Finland concludes that increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity. Any amount of running, even just once a week, is better than no running, but higher doses of running may not necessarily be associated with greater mortality benefits. The review combined the results from 6 large studies looking at the effect of running upon mortality in around 230,000 middle-aged adults of which approximately 1 in 10 adults died during the duration of study. This reduced risk of dying in those who ran compared with no running from any cause is also reflected in similar risk reduction in death from cancer and heart disease and supports current knowledge that physical activity is good for health.

The surprise is that the benefit of running doesn’t seem to be dose related as there is no identifiable link between how often people ran and their risk of early death. It’s possible that running is not the factor per se but is a marker for a healthier lifestyle overall.

Nevertheless, the findings support current recommendations to take regular physical activity, of at least 2.5 hours moderate intensity each week.

The full research article ‘Is running associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysis’ is available free online.

Why exercise? Well I guess the simple answer is that it will likely help you live long and stay healthier for longer. The health benefits are numerous and not only cardiovascular – reducing the risk of heart disease or stroke. (That’s the Health!- more to come another time!) Exercise can be free (see Parkrun below) so don’t feel compelled to spend a fortune on gym membership. (That’s the Wealth! My grandmother always used to say, “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves!” However it is also a truism that in the past when our forebears walked to and from their often manual jobs, that exercise was cheap and food expensive, whereas now exercise – or at least gym membership – is expensive and food is cheap – by comparison.) I was never sporty or athletic, a trier but never good enough to be anything but last pick in every discipline from football to volleyball! It took me an age (late 40s) to recognise that my sedentary job needed some balance with at least some movement every now and again. I pretty much fell into exercise and needed a good friend and personal trainer to sign me up for an annual 10k event. No chance of slacking then, however in retrospect not something that gave me the discipline to make exercise an integral part of my week. I did the run but soon slipped back into my old ways. I did the occasional run but usually found an excuse not to – later, when the rain stops, it’s too late now, maybe tomorrow, I’ll get this done first – damn no time! It took me a year to do my first Parkrun (see below) through a combination of self-delusion (I thought it was on a Sunday! Duh!) and lack of self-motivation. Exercise also improves mental health giving rise to enhanced mood and outlook on life, so exercise with friends or make friends doing exercise as research shows people who have strong relationships with a partner, family or close friends are happier, healthier and live longer. And it works both ways – for us and for them too. (That’s the Happiness!)

I will cover some of the science and evidence at another time but for now I’d like to introduce Parkrun. Wiki will tell you that the first Parkrun event to launch was the Bushy Parkrun, which was founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004. Originally called the Bushy Park Time Trial, it was renamed Parkrun in 2008. The first event outside of the United Kingdom was launched in Denmark in 2009. Events take place in a range of general locations including city parks, country parks, national parks, stately homes, castles, forests, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, beaches, promenades, prisons, racecourses and nature reserves.

Parkrun’s growth is partly attributed to its simplicity and accessibility, runners register online once, turn up at any event, and run. And partly to its inclusivity, participants have a wide range of running abilities, from fast club runners to those walking, a wide range of ages, from children running with their parents to the elderly, also allowed are wheelchair users, those pushing buggies and people running with their dog. Events are run by volunteers, and participation is free of charge. To assist the volunteers, Parkrun HQ provides equipment and guidance. Runners are requested to register online in advance for a unique athlete number and to print their own identification bar-code for use when taking part. Runners’ results in each event are processed and uploaded online after the run by volunteers. Each registered runner has an individual page cataloguing the details of each event in which they have participated. Parkrun’s mission statement is “a healthier and happier planet” – You can’t argue with that!

So nearly 5 years ago on a frosty January day I put my resolution to the test and donned my running shoes and completed my very first Parkrun. 4 months later I achieved what remains as my personal best. I’ll admit there has been a lack of dedication to beating this and the weariness of work as well as a lack of Friday night preparation! (or is that self-sabotage with late nights and too much wine?)

However let it not be said that I’ve not at least tried. As of today I’ve done over 200 Parkrun 5Km runs and got the T-Shirts to prove it! (Well those of the 50 and 100 club – 250 and 500 might take a while! – and they’re free!) I’ve also done a 10Km event every year too!

For me the discipline of knowing that come rain or shine, hell or high water, feast or famine the Parkrun volunteers will be out there on Saturday morning at 9am to welcome, fire the starting pistol (Actually there’s no gun – sorry!) cajole, marshal and time us all over the 5Km course, is enough to get me out of bed and into my running gear. To be truthful I don’t get the adrenaline buzz of competition, nor the endorphin high that some runners experience – however what I do get is the satisfaction of having done it and sitting in a hot bath with my cup of tea in the peace and quiet before the family well and truly take over my weekend!

Parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.

These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.

Using the events page, select the event you are most interested in and review all the information about the course, local news items, the photo gallery and information about volunteering. Also, take a look at the extensive results page where you will find an incredible amount of information about your past performance.

If you’re interested in signing up to run at an existing Parkrun event, or you fancy starting an event where you live, click the buttons below to find out more…

click here to find out how to sign-up to parkrun


71 benefits of running backed by science – this is great from – surely there are few excuses not to start running and there’s no time like the present!


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