Here’s Another Way Running Helps to Slow Ageing

Longtime runners have a significantly lower density of a compound thought to be a key factor in ageing, according to a study of masters runners and sedentary contemporaries published in the journal Age.

Danish researchers gathered two groups of healthy elderly men: 15 lifelong runners, with an average age of 64, and 12 sedentary men, with an average age of 66. The researchers took measurements in the subjects’ patellar (knee) tendons and skin of a substance known as advanced glycatic end products (AGEs). These compounds stem from a biological process that affects all cells in the body; affected cells become stiffer and more subject to damage and premature aging. High levels of AGEs are associated with many degenerative diseases.

The researchers found that the lifelong runners had a 21 per cent lower density of AGEs than their sedentary contemporaries in their patellar tendons.

The findings “suggest that life-long regular endurance running can partly counteract the aging process in connective tissue by reducing age-related accumulation of AGEs,” the researchers concluded. “This may not only benefit skin and tendon but also other long-lived protein tissues in the body.”

The researchers also looked at the size of the patellar tendon in the older men and two groups of men in their 20s, 10 of whom were regular runners and 12 of whom were sedentary. Both younger and older runners had thicker patellar tendons than their untrained contemporaries.

“[I]t appears that endurance running yields tendon tissue hypertrophy that may serve to lower the stress on the tendon and thereby reduce the risk of injury,” the researchers concluded.

Yet more evidence against the idea that lifelong running wears the body down, and for the idea that aiming to be a runner the rest of your life will pay significant and sometimes surprising health dividends.

 [article updated April 2015]

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