A recent study by University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University has shown that running into old age makes your body more energy efficient, meaning that older runners expend the same energy as a 20 year old whilst walking. Non-runners needed to expend an additional 22% of energy to walk the same distance.
The study looked at 30 people with an average age of 69 who regularly ran or walked at least three times a week for 30 minutes or more each time.
“What we found is that older adults who regularly participate in highly aerobic activities – running in particular – have a lower metabolic cost of walking than older, sedentary adults and also lower than seniors who regularly walk for exercise,” said Ortega, a doctor at CU-Boulder.
Another interesting aspect of this study was that it showed that walkers did not benefit in the same way – their energy cost of walking was almost the same as those who did not walk for exercise at all. The team suggest that this could be due to increased mitochondria in runners cells, but conceded that more research was required to draw a firm conclusion.
So whilst runners will lose speed and ‘raw power’ as they age, they will maintain their efficiency in a way that others do not. This means that they will be able to keep their quality of life the same for longer as they are not expending additional energy to walk around.