Increasing running speed decreases the prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol
In a study completed in 2010, Relationship of Running Intensity to Hypertension, Hypercholesterolemia & Diabetes seems to provide good evidence that prevalence of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes were all significantly and inversely correlated to usual running speed, thus indicating that faster runners are less likely to have the above diseases. Specifically more vigorous exercise provides greater health benefits than moderate exercise.
What does this meant for runners…vigorous exercise is defined as that which has a metabolic equivalent of 6 or greater, which in practical terms means an activity that burns more than 420 calories per hour. Translated to running are the following METS equivalents based upon speeds:
Jogging: 5 mph (640 kcals/hour or 8.7 METS)
Moderate: 6 mph (750 kcals/hour or 10.2 METS)
Fast: 10 mph (1200 kcals/hour or 16.3 METS)
As you can see all running would be considered as vigorous. While both vigorous and moderate intensities of exercise have been shown to have equal effects on systolic blood pressure, lipoproteins, and body fat, it is only vigorous exercise that also significantly lessens the chance of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and hypercholestrolemia.
While it is generally accepted that greater cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with lower risks for hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease, there was no study on whether increasing intensity of running had not been performed. Therefore, the goal of this study was to examine the prevalence of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes in relation to usual running speed when adjusted for age, body mass, and total exercise done.
The study consisted of 59,506 running surveys received, complete data on distance run per day, usual running pace, and BMI as well as the use of medications were available for 25,552 men and 29,148 women. The authors felt that changes in the amount of medication for elevated, cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure, used by runners of different paces would equate to differences in the amount and degree those runners were affected by these diseases.
What they found supported their hypothesis, not only is running good to decrease the prevalence of these diseases but there were strong relationships that the faster someone ran, the risks decreased even more. Also of note was that increasing the amount of running, distance did not affect prevalence of these diseases amongst runners.
• Medication use was 8- to 14- fold greater in the slowest versus the fastest men and 5- to 7- fold greater in the slowest women compared to the fastest.
• The odds for taking medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes decreased in association with the meters per second of usual running speed (P<0.0001) and was affected very little by additional adjustment for distance.
• The odds ratio for antihypertensive medication use in men declined linearly with usual speed and was significantly less than 1 in men who ran 9 minutes per mile or faster. With further adjustment for weekly distance ran, the odds ratios increased slightly, however they remained significantly less for those running a 9 minute mile or faster. Additional adjustment from these numbers based on BMI again increased the odds ratios, however they still indicated significantly less likelihood of antihypertensive medication use for those running a 9 minute mile or faster. Similar results were found for LDL-cholesterol lowering medication and anti-diabetic medication use.
• With regards to women, running an 11 minute mile or faster was associated with significantly lower odds for medication use than those who ran slower. Adjustment for running distance had little effect on the women’s odds ratios and adjustment for BMI had slightly greater effect.
• Odds ratios for antihypertensive, LDL-cholesterol lowering, and anti-diabetic medication use by running distance indicated that increased running distance was associated with lower medication use. This effect was seen in men and women.