Research-Backed Reasons Why Running Is Good for You

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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Research-Backed Reasons Why Running Is Good for You

All runners hear the naysayers: Running is bad for your knees; running destroys the body; don’t you know people drop dead at marathons?

You can now silence the negativity, as these new studies below quell the defeatists and demonstrate this form of exercise does indeed benefit you:

In a 2017 study published in Nature, researchers looked at 79 adult men and women, two-thirds of whom had a five-year history of running. The other 1/3 participated in no sports. To confirm activity level during the study, all wore accelerometers for one week. Researchers then used an MRI to look at the size and liquidity of each runner’s disc. They found larger discs with more fluid (indicating a healthier spine) in runners than those who lived sedentary lives. They also found that running distance did not play a part — whether a runner preferred to run for long distances (30+ miles per week) versus middle distances (12–25 miles per week), all spines achieved almost the same healthy results.

A December 2016 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that 30 minutes of running can help your knees. Researchers took blood and knee-joint fluid samples from 15 runners ages 18–35 before and after they ran for a half an hour on a treadmill, as well as when they were not active. Results showed that pro-inflammatory markers actually decreased after a 30-minute run.

Recently, in January 2018, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery published a review of data on the rates of arthritis joint pain experienced by marathoners versus the greater population. They looked at 675 regular runners from 31 countries throughout the course of 20 years. The authors found arthritis prevalence was less than half for distance runners — smaller than 9% for runners versus 18% for non-runners. Also, barring runners with hip or knee issues, the authors found no link between distance running and joint pain.

In a 2017 study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, authors Duck-chul Lee et al. reviewed the findings on the impact of running on various health outcomes. They concluded that runners have a “25–40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately three years longer than non-runners.” The authors estimate an hour of running lengthens life expectancy by seven hours and this includes slow runners, those who drink and smoke and are overweight. But, no one is immortal, which is why the authors capped the additional life expectancy at about three years — even if you run ultramarathons for years. The authors also researched other forms of exercise and found that none impacted life span in equivalent ways.

In 2017, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published a study in which researchers found that marathoners should not feel concerned about damaging their heart by running. In the study, 97 runners who had competed in an average of 11 races of distances ranging from half marathon to ultramarathon, got their arteries tested. Results showed age was the only factor associated with artery health.


The lead author, Axel Pressler, head of the Prevention Center at the Technical University of Munich said, “It appears that you can run as many marathons as you want and not be in danger of developing impaired blood vessel function or atherosclerosis.” (According to the American Heart Association, atherosclerosis is “fatty deposits that can clog arteries,” which can cause coronary heart disease.)

About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie

Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.