RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The long-distance runner is sometimes said to be lonely—but, it turns out, he or she may also be especially healthy. A new study of more than 100,000 runners out of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, CA, found that the longer the usual training run, the less likely the runner is to need medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes—regardless of how many total miles the runner ran that year.
THE DETAILS: Researchers relied on the National Runners Study—a survey of 62,284 men and 45,040 women runners who filled out a questionnaire given to them at races or as subscribers to Runner’s World magazine. The scientists categorized the runners based on their total annual mileage, their longest usual run, whether they ran marathons, and whether they took medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. “Compared to runners whose longest run was less than 5 kilometers [3.1 miles], those whose longest run was greater than 15K [9.3 miles] had a 34 percent lower risk of needing cholesterol-lowering drugs, a 39 percent lower risk of needing hypertensive medications, and a 65 percent lower risk for requiring diabetes medication,” says Paul Williams, PhD, lead author of the study.
WHAT IT MEANS: Bottom line: It’s important for overall health, not just running performance, to include longer runs in your running schedule. “Based on our study, I would say that the inclusion of a 10- or 15-mile run provides benefits beyond just the total cumulative mileage,” says Williams. “Not all runs necessarily need to be that long, but some should.”
Whether you’re a beginning fitness runner or training for a marathon, here are some ways to extend your runs: