If you want to stay young, running may be the best way to do it, claims a new study.
The research by the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University shows that senior citizens who run several times a week for exercise expend about the same amount of energy walking as a typical 20-year-old.
Professor Justus Ortega, who led the study, said that the bottom line was that running keeps one younger, at least in terms of energy efficiency.
The study involved 30 healthy older volunteer adults (15 males and 15 females) with an average age of 69 who either regularly ran or walked for exercise. The volunteers all had been either walking or running at least three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes per workout for at least six months.
Ortega said that they found older adults who regularly participated in highly aerobic activities - running in particular - had a lower metabolic cost of walking than older, sedentary adults and also lower than seniors who regularly walk for exercise. Though it was known for long that as people aged, their maximum aerobic capacity, or 'horsepower,' declined, and that was true for runners as well. What was new was that they found old runners maintained their fuel economy.
Associate Professor Rodger Kram said that walking for exercise has many positive health effects, like fending off heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and depression - it was just that walking efficiency did not seem to be one of them. Because no external biomechanical differences were found between the older walkers and runners, they suspected the higher efficiency of senior runners was coming from their muscle cells.
The study is published online in the journal PLOS ONE.