Longevity: Is running the key?
Want to live a long life, free of chronic disease and disability?
Short answer: The recipe for staying well to live past the average life expectancy of (men 76.4, women 81.2) is:
- Eat a mostly plant based diet
- Avoid overconsumption of food
- Move daily as part of a normal routine
- Connect with others; be part of a community
- Have a purpose in life; a reason to get out of bed each day
- Take time to slow down, avoiding a frenzied and stressed pace
Long answer: The list above is based on a body of work called ‘Blue Zones’ by Dan Buettner who (while on assignment for National Geographic) lived and studied groups of people throughout the world who have achieved incredible health and longevity. These ‘zones’ include: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece and the only zone in the US is Loma Linda, CA. This is because Loma Linda has a large percentage of people following the 7th Day Adventist guidelines around diet, activity, purpose and community. The people living in each of these regions around the world shared the same habits listed above revealing the fact that many factors play an important role.
How does running fit? Although not a requirement for longevity, running can help a person adopt all 6 of these behaviors. Runners often pay more attention to making healthy food choices while avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. Runners set goals and often have a plan to meet their goals. Runners often run with a friend or join a club or team. Running is an excellent way to manage stress and allow the mind a time to quite down and just enjoy the moment. Here is an example of runners and other athletes who kept moving into their very golden years:
Fauja Singh ‘The Turbaned Tornado’ has completed nine 26-mile (42-kilometer) marathons since taking up long-distance running at age 89. He retired from racing at age 101 after running a 10K in Hong Kong. In 2011 Singh became the first centenarian on record to complete a marathon after finishing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:11:06.
Sister Madonna Buder ‘The Iron Nun’ is the current world record holder for the oldest person to ever finish an Ironman triathlon. She has completed 45 full Ironman races and 350 triathlons, winning 12 age-group victories at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (she competed in 2014 at age 84) and has won dozens of national and world titles in Olympic-distance events.
Jack LaLanne ‘The godfather of fitness’ an exercise and fitness icon since the 1950s, exercised daily for 2 hours mostly swimming and weight lifting. His athletic feats are numerous including towing rowboats filled with people while handcuffed and shackled. He once said: ‘Dying is easy. Living is a pain in the butt. It’s like an athletic event. You’ve got to train for it. You’ve got to eat right. You’ve got to exercise. Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom’
Jacque Maldonado, MS, RD, CSSD, CDE
Jacque has a B.S. and M.S. in Nutrition and is an avid endurance athlete having finished four full Ironman® Triathlons and over 25 marathons including qualifying for Boston. She is also a USA Triathlon coach Level 1 and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. Jacque currently works in Kaiser Permanente’s Population & Prevention Services department.