In light of 85 -year old Ed Whitlock being in news once again for baffling scientists with his uncommon capacity for running marathons, there are several other seniors who will vouch that running has indeed been the reason for their longevity. Whitlock set his latest distance-running record, completing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3 hours 56 minutes 34 seconds and becoming the oldest person to run 26.2 miles in under four hours. He has no coach and does not follow any special diet.
In an interview with The New York Times , Whitlock says that he keeps himself busy doing seemingly ordinary household duties like shoveling snow in the winters and tending to his garden in the summers. He lifts no weights, does no situps or pushups. Instead Whitlock’s approach remains rather pragmatic. He’s not in it for the runner’s high or the health benefits. The real feeling of enjoyment is getting across the finish line and finding out that you’ve done fine, he says.
Just like Fauja Singh
Everybody has their reasons to take up activities that require them to push forward. Fauja Singh of England is the second in line after Ed Whitlock and holds the record for completing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 5 hours 40 minutes at the age of 92. But his mark has not been ratified because he has been unable to produce a birth certificate. Singh who ran the Mumbai Marathon in 2016 , attributes his accomplishments to his stringent dietary habits and his passion for running. After losing several dear ones and his wife, Singh turned towards running and found solace in it. About running marathons, he says “The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for last six miles, I run while talking to God.”
So why do we have so many seniors taking up activities like jogging or something more strenuous such as running marathons? Age brings problems, but then they are not without solutions. For many running seems to be the answer to many of the problems that come with age. From the 30s onwards, a number of physical changes take place in the average person’s body. Aerobic capacity decreases, muscle mass reduces, muscle elasticity reduces, lung elasticity declines, bone density reduces, the metabolism slows, body fat increases and the immune system becomes weaker.
As you run and improve the strength of your heart and the viscosity of your blood, your brain benefits from improved circulation. Running also helps to slow down the effects of ageing, improves the health, fitness and mobility of older people, and improves psychological health.
If you are over 60 and want to take up running, do not think that this could be detrimental for you. If done right, running at any age is very beneficial. However it is best to start running in stages. It is advised to start daily walks for at least 30 minutes, which then can turn into 30 minutes of walking combined with a few minutes of light jogging. Then over time, an easy 20-minute jog is very comfortable to get to.
For our senior citizens, walking is a relaxing way to preserve their ability to move and maintain their independence, and running takes it to the next level. And the best part of running is that you can do it anywhere and it requires no equipment. It’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.