Would you consider yourself old? I certainly wouldn’t consider myself old yet as I’m in my early 30s. But I am looking forward into older age and trying to think about, can I keep running? Are there health benefits of continuing to run into old age? So, today, I’ve done the research, looked into it, and I’m going to share with you the benefits of running into old age.
Regardless of the age you are, if you haven’t been with me here on this channel before, you’re going to want to stick around, hit that subscribe button for more episodes of this show I call Runner’s High. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. As I mentioned, I’m in my early 30s but looking ahead, trying to figure out can I continue running? Should I continue running? Is there anything else I should be doing?
Well, fortunately, there is academic research for us to look at that actually has some really good news for us. So, this came from Humboldt State University and the University of Colorado Boulder worked together to put this study together, and basically figured out when they had participants 65 and older that they studied, who ran three times a week of 30 minutes. So, we’re not even talking that long. It’s an hour and a half of running for an entire week. If you run a lot, you know, that’s really, really doable.
What they found was that the walking efficiency in these older adults was just as good as people in their 20s, which is ridiculous. Because there’s a lot of things that happen to us as we age. We slow down in general, which involves lots of body systems, but basically our cells aren’t regenerating as fast, and recovery time takes longer. All of that combined means to do anything in your 60s like somebody in their 20s when it’s related to health is a pretty big thing. Now, this is a weird kind of relationship. They haven’t quite figured out why it happens, why somebody who runs is now more effective at walking, but it’s thought to be possibly from an increase in mitochondria.
Now, mitochondria live inside your cell. If you are of a similar age to me you may remember this video from school that says the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. What that means is the mitochondria inside the cell help produce energy. So, it’s thought that the adults that are running are actually having extra mitochondria, which helps them produce more energy, making them just as effective as walking as 20 year olds.
I don’t know about you, but I know that mobility is such a big thing. I’ve been injured a number of times over my running career, which makes me less than mobile and it sucks. And a lot of people as they get into older age are less mobile. So, when we think about the benefits of having that increased mitochondria, and becoming more mobile, both because we’re stronger from running and have that potentially ability to produce more energy as we’re walking around, the benefits immediately on the surface are very, very clear.
On top of that, though, we also know that we lose bone density over time, which is why it’s easier to break bones as you get older, they become less dense after 40. But running and other weight bearing activities, exercises, but running in particular, places stress on the bones. You may think, well, stress is bad, our bones are getting weaker, we don’t want to do that because they might break. Except that you remember that we’re living systems.
When we put stress on something, our body tries to adapt. And by putting stress on your skeletal system through something like running, you can actually stimulate some new cell growth. So, though we are going to lose bone density over time, continuing to put stress on it can mitigate and prevent some of those losses. Meaning that we’ll have stronger bones into older age.
All that being said, you do have to be careful if this is something new for you. If you’ve been running for years, well then welcome to the channel. I hope you stick around. I hope maybe you can teach me a thing or two. But if you’re getting into it, know that you’ve got to take it a little bit slow. And that’s okay. Be patient with yourself because the older you get, as mentioned earlier, cell replication takes longer, which means that injuries last longer, so you have to be more careful.
This makes me think about a friend of mine who’s in his 60s. He runs very consistently but he never ever pushes himself too hard. It’s really aerobic fitness. The man’s in great shape. If he didn’t have gray hair you’d have no idea that he was in his 60s. He certainly doesn’t look it. So, keep that in mind.
If you made it all the way to the end of the video, and you’re thinking, well, I’m not old, but I’m kind of curious why I should do this. Well, first, thanks for sticking through the whole video if you’re similar to my age. But if you’re not older, if you know somebody who’s my age, younger, and they’re getting into running, and you want to give them a little bit broader perspective, or you want a broader perspective, why should you care? Why should you care if you are running when you’re old?
Well, because of all of the things. But not just that it’s continuing from now on into the future. It’s easier to maintain fitness than it is to gain it back. It’s so easy to lose it versus getting it in the first place. So, if you continue a nice routine, a consistent routine that doesn’t push yourself too hard, you’ll be able to reap all of those benefits throughout your life. So, do you have any questions for me you’d like to see in a future video? Leave them in the comments below. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.