August 4, 2014
It’s probably not in your “to read” stack.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology isn’t a page-turner; if you’re not employed in the field, you’ve never heard its name. Featuring articles with headlines like, “Effect of Intensive Statin Therapy on Regression of Coronary Atherosclerosis in Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome: A Multicenter Randomized Trial Evaluated by Volumetric Intravascular Ultrasound Using Pitavastatin Versus Atorvastatin,” it’s hard to imagine you’ve ever heard a quote from its august editions (that’s “august” as in, “respected and impressive,” not August, the month).
So, you have every excuse for not spotting the article last Monday, reporting the findings of Drs. Duck-chul Lee, Russell R. Pate, Carl J. Lavie, Xuemei Sui, Timothy S. Church and Steven N. Blair. In a study involving 55,137 adults – ranging in age from 18-100, with a mean age of 44 – their discoveries were remarkable. Do unremarkable joggers get any pay-off for their meager time on the track?
The conclusion: running – even 5-10 minutes per day, at less than 10 minutes/mile – has a profound effect on age and longevity. If done once or twice a week, with less than 51 total minutes, the results were consistent: casual, occasional runners had 30-45% lower risk of death by any/all causes, and an increase of three years in life expectancy. More miles, more benefits… but even the, “Aw, shucks, I only get out once or twice a week…” tail-draggers achieved a remarkable increase in predicted lifetime.
I’ve been running since April 1, 1978 (I bought my first pair of Nike Air-Max shoes). It took me a month to go a mile without stopping. In 90 days, I lost 30 pounds; in six months, I ran my first marathon. Now, 24 marathons – and more than 35,000 road miles – later, I’ve run through a lot of Nikes. What’s the pay-off?
Bragging rights, I guess. Put the control group alongside me and my obsessive behavior. Find the guy who bought the same shoes, hit the same stride in ’78… and was content to do five miles/week since then. His +9000 miles, compared with my 35,000. Who wins?
I’ve got a drawer full of silk-screen T-shirts, of interest to no one but me. I’ve had the chance to train for – and, compete in – marathons with both of my daughters: priceless. I’ve had great relationship times with runnin’ buddies for nearly four decades, and we’ve solved the world’s problems (and, some of our own!) in the conversations we’ve had on streets and trails across the country. The real-time benefits have been remarkable.
But, the real payoff is still future: I’ll have more years to accomplish my earth-mission than the control group who watched athletes sweat on ESPN rather than creating their own perspiration, in less time each week than it takes for an NFL game (60 minutes of clock time; doesn’t count the time-outs, the stop-the-clock huddles, or the advertising pauses). Who’s the winner: the watcher, or the doer?
How much faith does it take to give you life? Decades ago (about the time I became an amateur runner), I had a longtime friend with whom I regularly shared my faith. He was cordial, but unmoved. One day, I asked him why he wasn’t interested in my fascination with Jesus. His answer: “It sounds intriguing… but at this point in my life, I don’t have the time to go to the meetings” (church!).
Is Eternal Life the payoff for going to meetings? Or, is it something else? Paul’s answer: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life… (Titus 3:5-7)
Running buys a few extra years (and T-shirts); faith secures Eternity! A little goes a long way!