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Study finds men who regularly push themselves aerobically live longer

High-performance runners get an extra five years of healthy life, on average compared with the general population, according to a study by Australian and Canadian researchers published Thursday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
1 of 2 | High-performance runners get an extra five years of healthy life, on average compared with the general population, according to a study by Australian and Canadian researchers published Thursday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 9 (UPI) -- High-performance runners get an extra five years of healthy life, on average, compared with the general population, according to a study by Australian and Canadian researchers published Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of the breaking of the 4-minute mile by Roger Bannister.

The findings from analysis of the health records of the first 200 men to complete a sub-4-minute-mile, has implications for recommendations for long-term, regular, high-intensity aerobic exercise due to its impact on longevity, the authors said in a news release.

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Published Thursday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study of 200 male runners from Britain, Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States who were born between 1928 and 1955 found the athletes lived long lives with most still alive.

The longevity the men enjoyed demonstrated the vital importance of aerobic fitness, said Professor Mark Haykowsky, Research Chair in Aging and Quality of Life in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta in Canada.

"Breaking the 4-minute mile was an extraordinary achievement 70 years ago and revealed just what the human body can achieve. It set off a wave of runners following in Sir Roger's mighty footsteps.

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"Remarkably, we found that like Sir Roger, who lived to the ripe old age of 88, most of the first runners also lived well into their 70s, 80s, and a majority are alive and healthy today,"

Australian sports cardiologist Professor Andre La Gerche, head of the Heart Exercise and Research Trials Lab in Melbourne, said researchers believed the longevity of the study subjects was the result of having larger hearts.

"Our study set out to see how exercise affected elite athletes over the long term," La Gerche said. "We know that elite athletes have bigger hearts due to their sustained aerobic output and there was some belief that this could affect their health and longevity, but we found the opposite.

"Five years of extra life compared to average is very significant, especially when we found that many of these runners not only enjoyed long lives, but were also healthy.

"Not everyone needs to be able to run a sub-4-minute mile to enjoy good health long into old age, but they need to exercise regularly and push themselves aerobically."

Bannister's time of 3:59.40 only lasted for 46 days and was eclipsed by some 16 seconds by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj's unbroken 3:43.13 record, set in 1999 in Rome.

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Ollie Hoare and Kevin Sullivan are the fastest Australian and Canadian record holders with times of 3.47.48 and 3.50.26, respectively, both set at the annual Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.

A woman runner has yet to break the 4-minute-mile barrier, with the world record currently held by Kenya's Faith Kipyegon with a time of 4:07.64 set in Monaco in July.

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