Science shows what it takes to extend life expectancy.

In a major review of the health benefits of running, a team of scientists from the Iowa State University have concluded that regular runners live longer. The average gain in life expectancy was three years. This doesn’t take into account the frequency of running, except that it has to be more than once a week.

But it’s not the running that’s important; it’s the type of exercise. Running just happens to be the most commonly performed type of recreational intense exercise. Even at a slow jog, running requires a full set of working muscles and joints, plus a degree of determination (not to mention coordination) and, importantly, some pre-existing fitness. So runners are generally fit people in good health. This also applies to all people competing in most sports or doing intense exercise sessions.

It’s aerobic exercise, irrespective of the type, that is the elixir of a longer life.

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Professor David Cameron-Smith is a regular Fit Planet contributor. A transplanted Australian living in New Zealand, he obtained a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from Deakin University, and undertook postdoctoral training at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. His research interests include the importance of nutrition in the maintenance of optimal health in an ageing population, and the impact of nutrition in regulating the function of muscles.