Yes, you read it right. I have found the fountain of youth. No, I don’t have any expensive potions to sell you, and I won’t encourage you to get anything pumped into your body. I won’t even tell you to take supplements.
Running is the fountain of youth, and I have proof!
First, there is me. Yep, me. I am 60 years old. Last year, I did one ultra marathon (32 miles through the woods), one marathon, nine half marathons, and two sprint triathlons. Despite the fact that I have been known to wear my super socks, which I like to say give me super powers, the fact is that I am just healthy due to these three things:
- I spend lots of time socializing with family and friends.
- I eat a healthy diet, not perfect, but definitely, healthy.
- I am very active, averaging an hour a day of exercise for as long as I can remember.
Recently, I went to the dermatologist. Being outside a lot, I am careful to get my skin checked often. The doctor asked, “So, what medications are you on?”
I said, “None.”
She turned to her nurse and said, with a knowing smile, “See, it’s all lifestyle.”
A few years back, I was rushed to the ER when I fell down a flight of stairs. Same questions: “What medications do you take?” The nurse sat, pen in hand, ready to write on a form with a dozen lines under the ‘prescriptions’ heading, and I got the impression he was used to filling up many of them with the answer to that question.
I said, “None.”
He looked at me, then, for the first time, his expression that of misunderstanding, as if I was speaking in some alien tongue.
I have a friend in the over 60 age group, who started running when he was 49, and he just did his 500th race.
My friend, Silky, is 70. He races every weekend, and I’m not exaggerating. If Silky can find a race on Friday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday morning, he’ll do all three; usually, he sticks to 5k’s but he does them with ease, often finishing with a time that would give him first place if he were in the 20-24 year age group.
So, running, actually, physical activity, really is the fountain of youth. If you study the results of any race, you’ll find people in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s finishing with better times than half the people half their age. My completely unscientific research proves to me that physical activity – in my case, running – is the fountain of youth, but I won’t ask you to accept my unscientific research because there is plenty of research that is based on scientific proof.
Here is the most compelling evidence:
Dr. James Fries, emeritus professor of medicine at Standford University, did a study of 500 marathon runners. He followed them for 20 years starting when they were 50. His hypothesis was that they would not ruin their knees. Back then it was commonly thought that running would, inevitably, ruin anyone’s knees.
Well, his hypothesis was unquestionably proven, but the results of the study demonstrated far more than that. The marathon runners had less than half the morbidity rate after 20 years and were healthier in every category. Less cancer, fewer strokes and heart attacks, and even when asked about the tasks of daily life, across the board, the quality of life of the runners was superior to that of non-runners, even though they were generally running far less than they had been when the study began.
This information came from an article titled, “Running slows the aging clock, Stanford researchers find,” by Erin Digitale: I’m quoting from the article here: “Elderly runners have fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life and are half as likely as aging non-runners to die early deaths, the research found.”
Dr. Fries said, “Of the five markers of aging, physical activity is the only thing that has been proven to reverse all five markers.” This quote is taken from an interview of Dr. Fries by a friend, Liz Vassey, who was making a documentary film about the effects of running on aging. When that documentary is released, I will be encouraging everyone, runner and non-runner to see it and be inspired. It will be life-changing for many people.
So, next time you need motivation to run, maybe you should stop by an assisted living facility or a nursing home. You’ll see plenty of people creeping along behind walkers or scooting themselves along in wheelchairs. We’ll all get to that stage at some point. As Dr. Fries pointed out in the article, the morbidity rate is always 100 percent, eventually, but the goal is to expand a good quality of life to as close to the end of life as possible.
This matters. It matters for all runners all the time. Why? Because I think that outlook matters. Perspective matters. Have you ever worried that you won’t get to many of the items on your bucket list? If you’re middle aged, you may have thought of that. No matter what your age, you likely have watched feeble, elderly people and thought “I don’t want to every be like that.” Well, if you keep running, you may never be in that condition, and if you ever are, it will likely be for a smaller percentage of your life.
Keep running, and you may still be able to chase the grandkids or great grandkids around a theme park when the non-runners are stuck in front of a TV or behind a walker.
Making wise exercise choices now, will mean you’ll have enjoyable, fufilling options much later in life.