Exercise, especially running, slows aging and reduces osteoarthritis

Listen to James F. Fries, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine (http://aging.senate.gov/oas/hr38jf.htm ; see also http://www.aoa.gov/Baltimore99/J.F.Fries-bio.html and "Running 'protects against arthritis'," in http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2332409.stm) --

"The Health of Seniors is both our largest national health problem and our largest national economic problem. Lack of systematic, regular exercise is the largest single contributor to disability, diminished quality-of-life, and unnecessary medical expenses for seniors.

"...new data document postponement of disability and infirmity in seniors by eight to twelve years through regular exercise and through changes in other risk factors.

"The Compression of Morbidity paradigm envisions reduction of lifetime infirmity, ... and of medical care costs by compression of the period of morbidity between an increasing average age at onset of disability and the average age of death.[Emphasis added] The healthy life is seen as a life vigorous and vital until shortly before its natural close.  The strategy is that of postponing the onset of disability and high medical costs through prevention of diseases and reduction in medical care costs. ...

"New longitudinal data document the ability of exercise to greatly postpone the onset of disability with age.  For 14 years our research group at Stanford has studied the effects of long distance running and other vigorous exercise on patient outcomes in 537 members of a senior runners club, now averaging 70 years of age, compared with 423 age-matched community controls.  Disability levels were assessed yearly, allowing the area under the disability curve to be computed.  Runners, exercising vigorously for an average of 280 minutes per week, delayed the onset of disability by about 10 years compared with controls.  Longevity differences between groups, on the other hand, are projected as only 2 to 3 years.

"Both male and female runners increased disability at a rate only one-third that of the controls, after adjusting statistically for age, initial disability, educational level, smoking behavior, body mass index, history of arthritis, and the presence of comorbid disease.  As these subjects moved from age 58 toward age 70, the differences in disability rates between the exercising and the control population actually increased, rather than decreased.  Lifetime disability in exercisers is only one-third that of sedentary individuals."