"The results of our research allow us to definitively answer the question of whether jogging is good for your health," Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist of the long-term Copenhagen City Heart Study, said in a news release from the European Society of Cardiology. "We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity. The good news is that you don't actually need to do that much to reap the benefits."
In conducting the study, the researchers compared the mortality of joggers and non-joggers who took part in the population study of 20,000 people aged 20 to 93 that began in 1976. In making their comparison, they asked 1,116 male joggers and 762 women joggers about their jogging routine, including how fast and how long they jogged weekly.
"With participants having such a wide age span we felt that a subjective scale of intensity was the most appropriate approach," explained Schnohr, who is based at Bispebjerg University Hospital, in Copenhagen.
In the follow-up period of up to 35 years, the study found that 10,158 non-joggers and 122 joggers died. The researchers noted this was a 44 percent drop in the risk of death for male and female joggers.
The researchers found that male joggers can extend their life by 6.2 years, and women by 5.6 years.
Jogging at a slow pace for one to two and a half hours weekly provided the most significant benefits.
"You should aim to feel a little breathless, but not very breathless," said Schnohr. "The relationship appears much like alcohol intakes. Mortality is lower in people reporting moderate jogging, than in non-joggers or those undertaking extreme levels of exercise."
The study's authors noted there are several health benefits of jogging that contribute to increased life expectancy, including improvements in:
- Oxygen uptake
- Insulin sensitivity
- Lipid profiles (raising "good" HDL cholesterol and lowering triglycerides)
- Heart function
- Bone density
- Immune function
- Psychological function
The improved psychological well-being may be due to the fact that people have more social interactions when they're out jogging, explained Schnohr.
The researchers added that jogging also helps lower blood pressure, reduce platelet aggregation and prevent obesity.
The study was slated for presentation Thursday at a meeting of the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, called EuroPRevent2012, in Dublin.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.