DUBLIN -- For those who diligently lace up their running shoes and brave the elements to jog at least an hour a week, there is a very real reward -- an average of six more years of life, Danish researchers found.
Jogging was associated with a 44 percent reduction in the relative risk of death over 35 years compared with deaths among non-joggers, according to Dr. Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist from the Copenhagen City Heart study.
And the benefit was observed for both men and women.
That reduction translated into an "age-adjusted survival benefit of 6.2 years in men and 5.6 years in women," Schnohr reported here at EuroPRevent 2012.
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And that longer life is often a happier life, he said, since joggers reported an overall sense of well-being.
"This is definitely good news, especially for those who have questioned whether simply jogging could be beneficial," said Dr. Ian Graham, of Dublin's Trinity College, who co-chaired the program committee for the meeting.
"The results of our research allow us to definitively answer the question of whether jogging is good for your health," Schnohr said in a prepared statement. "We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity. The good news is that you don't actually need to do that much to reap the benefits."
Moreover, the optimum benefit was realized for those who jogged at a slow-to-average pace between an hour and two and half hours done in two to three sessions over the course of a week.
The key, Schnohr said, appears to be moderation, much like the benefit observed with alcohol.
The jogging benefit is just the latest in a long list of studies from Schnohr and colleagues -- more than 750 papers -- mined from the 19,329 participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study, which is a prospective cardiovascular population study begun in 1976.
When the study began, participants ranged in age from 20 to 79.
All participants underwent examinations over 2-year time frames beginning in 1976, 1981, 1991, and finally in 2001. In addition to assessments of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, and BMI, patients were also asked about smoking, alcohol consumption, education, and income.
The 1,878 participants in the jogging substudy (1,116 men) were also asked about jogging frequency and pace.
The researchers tracked the data using a personal identification number in the Danish Central Register. The authors compared deaths in joggers to deaths among non-joggers from the main study cohort.
During 35 years of follow-up there were 122 deaths among joggers versus 10,158 deaths among non-joggers.