Although there are no sure-fire prescriptions for long life, exercise has often been touted as the key to good health for both young and old. But a new Danish study has discovered that too much physical activity actually does more harm than good. Instead, researchers found that light jogging is best when it comes to longevity.
In the study, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers evaluated 5,048 healthy participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study. They identified and tracked 1,098 healthy joggers and 413 healthy but sedentary non-joggers over the course of 12 years. They gained access to records that logged hours of jogging, frequency and the participants' perception of pace.
In the end, they found the optimal frequency of jogging was no more than three times per week -- or between one and 2.4 hours per week -- and that slow to moderate joggers enjoyed dramatically lower mortality rates than fast-paced runners. In short, people who jogged strenuously and frequently were just as likely to die as those who did not jog at all.
"It is important to emphasize that the pace of the slow joggers corresponds to vigorous exercise and strenuous jogging corresponds to very vigorous exercise," said Dr. Peter Schnohr, a researcher from the Copenhagen City Heart Study, in a written release. "When performed for decades, this activity level could pose health risks, especially to the cardiovascular system."
The findings are consistent with previous research that uncovered similar links between light to moderate exercise and long life, as well as the greater mortality risk linked with vigorous exercise.
"If your goal is to decrease risk of death and improve life expectancy, jogging a few times a week at a moderate pace is a good strategy," Schnohr said. "Anything more is not just unnecessary, it may be harmful."
In another study conducted by Schnohr, in 2012, researchers found that jogging at least an hour a week results in an average of six more years of life. In yet another 2012 study, researchers found that those who engaged in leisure-time physical activity enjoyed life expectancy gains of up to 4.5 years.
That alone is enough to get us moving.