By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Thousands of runners participated in the annual Boston Marathon on Monday and doctors say there is new research that shows that runners live longer. People who run or jog on a regular basis are generally in pretty good shape.

Aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping is linked to all kinds of health benefits, and doctors say you don’t have to run a marathon to get them.

Thirty-thousand runners pounded the pavement for the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday with the winner completing the 26-plus mile course in two hours and seven minutes.

Doctors say that elite runners are in a class of their own medically. For the millions of others who run or jog for exercise, research shows they’ll probably live longer.

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“It’s the aerobic exercise that exercises the heart muscle,” Dr. Donald Ford, of the Cleveland Clinic, said. “Just like doing barbells is going to exercise your arm muscles. It’s the same thing. So that exercise for the hearth muscle is what seems to keep us around longer.”

In Philadelphia, Kelly Drive is a popular spot for runners.

One study looked at more than 50,000 runners between the ages of 18 to 100 and found that running just five to 10 minutes every day, even at slow speeds, was associated with reduced risk of death and heart disease.

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Research on runners over the age of 50 says people who ran during middle and older ages had reduced disabilities later in life and actually lived longer than their non-running peers.

Doctors say, like any exercise, it’s important to take it slow if you’re just starting out.

“You have to be very careful as you approach this, whether you’re a young person or an old person, to make sure that you’re protecting yourself, you’re protecting yourself against injury, you’re warming up correctly,” Ford said.

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Stretching will also help prevent injuries along with wearing supportive sneakers and choosing softer surfaces like dirt when possible.

Doctors say running can also cause problems for some people – things like stress fractures and cartilage damage. For those people, an alternative would be to do non-impact aerobic exercise like swimming.

Adding weight training, too, provides optimal fitness.

Stephanie Stahl