How running supports a longer life

Running helps you live longer. While this could be subject for debate, a fascinating TED Talk I saw recently (“The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life”), solidified my position that running does indeed help you live longer, although not for the reasons we might think. Psychologist Susan Pinter illustrated how social integration – or social interaction – is the key secret to longevity.

The conclusion is that social interactions are the strongest predictor of how long you will live and that face-to-face contacts are way more beneficial than online interactions. Pinter cited such statistics as the lowest rates of dementia are found among people who are socially engage and socially engaged women who have breast cancer are four times more likely to survive their disease than loners.
So what does this have to do with running? “Exercise” was way down on the list of predictors for a long, healthy life, which were referenced in her talk. Plus running is an individual sport, no? Well yes – and no!  I have over 700 “friends” on FaceBook and while some of those are relatives, old school friends, former co-workers, and moms from town, the large majority of my friends hail from “the running community.” These are people who I not only interact with online, but who I also see regularly at races and group runs.
And it’s not just about running. Sometimes we socialize off the race course, and most importantly we support one another. 
A little over a year ago, I wrote about the importance of female friendships and discussed how my running friends supported me after my breast cancer diagnosis. My running friends were also the first to reach out to me after my husband died and they were the majority of the people that made up the attendance at my 50th birthday party the following spring. Even my boyfriend and I share a special bond through running (which I wrote about last year).
Social integration though, we’re told, is not just interactions with those close to us, but interactions with everyone we encounter throughout our day. Running gets us up and out and gives us lots of opportunities to say hello to everyone we pass on the street or the path. I find all those endorphins also make me more upbeat and friendly as I go about the rest of my day as well.
So okay, exercise isn’t going to help us live as long as we thought it would. But maybe it’s not the actual running that helps us lead a longer and healthier life, but rather the friendships we’ve made through running that will keep us moving. 
Me & my running club: De Novo Harriers. New Year’s Day 2018. Fair Lawn, New Jersey.               Photo Credit: Norm Chester (North Jersey Masters)


This week in Marathon Training:Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 7.50.59 AMCross-training, as you can see from this chart of last week’s workouts, can take on many forms. We need to be flexible in our training in order to create balance with the rest of our lives. Giving ourselves credit for household activities that work the body are a way to do that. While marathon training, I am also prepping my house to go on the market. I imagine there will be more of these creative interpretations of cross-training.

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