Great News - Your Bone Marrow Retains A Younger Body Age When You Run, Maintaining Increased Immunity
If you've thought about running, this is a good reason to try
I believe that the most beneficial goal of exercising when we are older is to lower our body age. That's why I named my Medium Publication "Body Age Buster".
I've studied how to do this, and put in into practice over the last 21 years, with great results. Typically, tests of my body age report ages between 15 and 20 years younger than my physical age (72 this year).
Despite all my years of reading and practising these ideas, I was completely surprised when I found out recently that exercise can lower the body age of our bone marrow.
In this time of the COVID19 pandemic, this is fantastic news because healthy and active bone marrow plays a significant role in supporting our immune system.
Like me, you've no doubt recently read many articles suggesting ways to improve your immune system (including those I've published such as the one below).
That's to say, we need to do the best we can to support our immune system right now, and until the pandemic has wholly passed.
For example, if you are a subscriber to my newsletter you may recall a recent lead article referred to how a bone marrow transplant patient kept herself safe from COVID-19. Bone marrow plays an important role in maintaining the health of our immune system, and bone marrow transplant patients have reduced immunity.
Researchers found that runners have "younger" bone marrow
Australian research published two years ago, found that people who ran more than 20km (12.5 miles a week) had bone marrow equivalent to eight years younger than those who were sedentary and didn't regularly exercise.
They also found that for every 9km (5.6 miles) a person ran per week, the bone marrow was one year "younger".
I used to run 5km twice a week and go to the gym three times a week. Since the lockdown and the closure of all gyms in Australia, I have taken to running 4 to 5km every day. I now run slower than before the gym closed. My goal now is "running to avoid injury" rather than running to improve my pace (as it used to be).
Fortunately for me, this means I run at least 28km a week. If the research holds true, this is of great benefit in reducing the "body age" of my bone marrow.
My typical body age is about 15 years younger than my physical age, and it appears that my bone marrow might be eight years younger than my body age.
Good for me. How can you get the same advantage?
What this means for you
Bone marrow function deteriorates with age, as it becomes more fatty.
The bad news is that the research found that cycling and "non-spine bearing" exercises did not reduce bone marrow age. So you need to do something which places a sensible load on your spine - that's something like jogging, running, or skipping.
Walking won't do the job, even walking briskly. The research determined that jogging delivered some benefit - but significantly less than running. So it is unlikely that running would help much.
If you don't like running, or are not inclined to try, you could try skipping. I wrote a recent article on the benefits of skipping and how to get started.
On the other hand, if you are willing to try running, here are my tips. I started running at 70, and besides now running 4 to 5km every day I have run 10km a couple of times.
The best thing about running right now, during #StayAtHome, is that it refreshes my mood and helps put things in perspective. If you are willing to give it a try, you'll get more benefit than just lowering your bone marrow age.
A meta-analysis published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2019) found that running only once a week for less than 50 minutes has significant health benefits. That's well and good, but that is only going to amount to 6 or 7km a week, if you are starting out, and 10km when you are proficient.
That will, potentially, only deliver you one year younger bone marrow. I suggest that you aim higher, for 20km a week, and potentially reducing your bone marrow age by eight years.
Start with walking, and then skipping, and then running
One way to ease into running is by combining walking and running.
Set out for your regular walk, and then run gently 100m at a time, and then walk 100m until your body recovers. You repeat this back-and-forth cycle for a certain amount of time or distance or repetitions, e.g. 10 times.
The goal is to slowly increase your running time and decrease your walking time until you run for a total of 20 to 25 minutes each time. That will then add up to the required distance needed to improve your bone marrow health.
Use this kind of plan, to progressively increase your running distance:
When you have achieved this, you will be running about 2km, which is great (and walking about 2km).
When this becomes easy, run for the whole first 2km, and then walk back towards home for a minute or until you have recovered. Then run the remaining distance back home.
Over time, you'll find yourself suddenly being able to run the whole distance without stopping. From that point onwards, focus on consistency, on running as relaxed as you can, and on keeping yourself free of injuries by developing your body-awareness.
I wrote an answer to a question on Quora on how to transition from walking to running - you like to read it also, as it has some different nuances.
Good luck with your running - your immune system will thank you.
I'm off now to run my 5km on my local cliff-top trail.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician. Disclaimer.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter