Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 28 Jun 2000 08:49:42 -0400

Longer, Older, Happier

(from RC 310)

If you read the fine print beside published photos, you know the name Ken Lee from those credit lines. His work has graced most of the magazines, along with many of my books.

Ken hasn't left photography but decided in his late 30s to add a career. He went back to college and eventually into a graduate program at UC Berkeley in clinical social work. He graduated this month after completing a study on the link between running and depression.

He found the right link. "The implications are clear," he says. "Running significantly helps depressed people feel less depressed."

Using a questionnaire that he designed plus standard testing tools in the field, Ken studied 73 long-distance runners, almost equally divided between men and women. They spanned a wide range weekly mileages (three to 85) and of ages (20 to 66).

Ken matched scores of higher mileage runners (31 and more a week) against those running less. He also tested older runners (43 and up) against younger ones.

His conclusions:

-- Running helped depressed people feel less depressed. All runners in the study who were depressed before they started to run became less so.

-- Runners who covered 31 or more miles (or 50-K plus) a week reported a greater mood-boosting effect than those who ran less. At least psychologically, more running is better.

-- Running's benefits varied with age. Runners of 43 to 66 who began running with depression improved significantly more than the younger subjects.

THE REPORT above brought a reply from Rich Englehart of Newburyport, Massachusetts, who teaches college psychology as well as being a longtime runner:

"Ken Lee isn't the first to link running with treatment for depression. There's a guy at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in treating depression with running.

"His whole treatment program involves getting people up to three miles a day. He won't see them until they've worked up to that level and does his sessions with the clients while running. Often he never has to do a session because by the time they get to the three-a-day level they aren't depressed anymore."


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