While the health benefits of running are widely known, such as helping you to build strong bones and strengthen your muscles, regularly going on leisurely jogs could also slow down signs of ageing.
A study published in the European Heart Journal by researchers from Leipzig University in Germany assessed the impact that different forms of exercise have on the human body, comparing the effects of endurance, HIIT and resistance training.
Over the course of six months, the team studied 266 healthy volunteers as they partook in three workouts a week, each randomly assigned one of the three aforementioned forms of exercise or put in a control group.
All of the participants were described as being “previously inactive”, thus creating an even playing field for the study.
Endurance training involved going on long runs, HIIT training consisting of doing a warm up followed by running intervals, and the resistance training involved doing a variety of exercises such as crunches, chest presses and leg curls.
The researchers analysed the white blood cells of the participants at the beginning of the study, a few days into the study and then at the end of the six-month period.
The team noted a greater increase in telomerase activity and telomere length in the white blood cells of the participants who did endurance and HIIT training in comparison to those who did resistance training or no exercise at all.
Telomeres are stretches of DNA that can be found on the end of chromosomes that affect the way in which humans age.
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“Our main finding is that, compared to the start of the study and the control group, in volunteers who did endurance and high intensity training, telomerase activity and telomere length increased, which are both important for cellular ageing, regenerative capacity and thus, healthy ageing,” says Professor Ulrich Lauds, one of the authors of the study.
“Interestingly, resistance training did not exert these effects.”
Dr Christian Werner, co-author of the study, believes the key to the team’s findings may lie in human heritage.
“From an evolutionary perspective, endurance and high intensity training may mimic the advantageous travelling and fight or flight behaviour of our ancestors better than strength training,” he says.
While doing endurance training such as running may be beneficial for your health, it could also lead to injuries in areas of the body such as the knee and the heel.
Knee pain is so common among runners that it’s often referred to as “runner’s knee”.
If you’re experiencing knee pain as a result of running, the NHS recommends resting for a week and then visiting a GP or physiotherapist if you don’t see any improvement.