For example, recent research at Ball State University found that a group of 75-year-old lifetime runners and bicyclists (who had been exercising for 50 years) had biological profiles closer to 25-year-old graduate students than to their non-exercising 75-year-old peers.
In another famous study, Stanford researchers compared local runners in their mid-50s with non-exercising Stanford community members who had the same top-notch medical care. Twenty-one years later, the death rate was more than 50 percent lower among the runners. More unexpectedly, the runners were reaching certain “disability scores” 11 to 16 years later than the non-runners. In other words, they were staying younger for longer. And the older the subjects became, the greater the advantages seen among runners.
2. Running helps you sleep better
If you haven’t seen numerous articles on the importance of sleep in recent years, you’ve been, well, asleep under a rock somewhere. And sleep may be especially important for athletes. After all, it’s when the body performs all its repair work. In Good to Go, her book on sports recovery, science writer Christie Aschwanden rates sleep as one of the few recovery “techniques” that’s actually supported by good evidence.
According to experts from Johns Hopkins, “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality.” An article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Exercise notes that the exercise-sleep connection goes both ways. The more you exercise, the more you need quality sleep. Also, the worse your sleep habits, the less likely you are to exercise regularly.
Runners were once warned that an evening workout would disrupt that night’s sleep. However, a 2018 meta analysis of 23 studies on the topic produced an opposite finding. Except for a hard interval workout undertaken within an hour of bedtime (don’t do it!), other evening exercise actually improved ease of falling-asleep and quality of sleep.