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Does Running Actually Make You Look Older?

Reviewed by Sunil April 5, 2013 19 Comments

Marta’s article concerning running’s ability to make us look younger stirred up some controversy a couple weeks back. People argued that running actually had the opposite effect, making people look far older than they actually are, which had us scratching our heads. Could it be true? The simple answer is yes and no.

There seemed to be two arguments against running, one discussing a runners body and the other about a runners face, first, we’ll cover the body. Female runners deal with one thing that male runners do not- worrying about their breast. The constant pounding of feet against pavement can stretch out the ligaments that hold up the breast. To combat this directly, female runners often wear sports bras that squeeze their breast towards their chest. Problem solved, moving on.

Another major subject that everyone seems to be talking about is skeletal issues: a problem hip, knees going bad, foot issues. But just because someone you know has had bone issues due to running doesn’t mean that everyone who runs has to deal with the same issues. Running will not speed up damage to your knees, but it will aggravate old injuries related to your lower half. I broke my ankle back in high school so running is like Russian roulette for me, a lot of the time it doesn’t bother me but sometimes it does.

All of our bodies (both inside and out) are made up differently; we all eat different things (some people get more calcium and vitamin D which is food for bones) and workout in different ways. You should never compare yourself to someone else’s body and write something off. And contrary to popular belief, running will actually help strengthen your bones according to a study from The University of Missouri. “The results of the study confirm that both resistance training and high-impact endurance activities increase bone mineral density. However, high-impact sports, like running, appear to have a greater beneficial effect,” said Pam Hinton, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Also, keep in mind that the article was called “Running will make you look younger.” I think people are confusing running with long-distance running. When I go for a run, I’m just putting in a few miles, I’m not outside for 10+ miles and I’m definitely not outside in the sun, I opt for night runs because it’s cooler and I don’t have to stop for sunscreen.

The facial area seemed to be the second big concern. This is somewhat true, elements like wind and sun will certainly do some damage to your face. Also, in theory the constant pounding on concrete will cause your skin to sag. Runners also have less body fat and according to a Times article, in a study with twins- as a pair of twins reach the 40+ age area, the one with more fat tended to look younger, which makes sense to a degree. With a plumper face, you’ll fill out fine lines and wrinkles.  This is called “volume replacement.”

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But with that being said, the way a person looks is always subjective. From my personal point of view, take a runner age 35 and someone out of shape that’s 35 and I’ll probably always pick the runner as the younger looking one. “Looking” in shape isn’t just about your face; it’s about your entire body. On the Runnersworld forum under the topic of Running: Does it make you age or stay young, one person noted “Oh well, what's a few wrinkles to a nicely toned body, right?”

Running will tighten up your body so you can avoid things like love handles and a lumpy body which can make you look older than you are. Plus, with a tighter core and lean legs, you’ll be looking younger.

In the end, there’s one major solution that everyone seems to be forgetting. Run on a treadmill. First and foremost, a good treadmill is cushioned so you won’t be dealing with the high impact of the pavement. Second, you won’t have to worry about red, parched skin due to the sun and wind because you’ll be indoors. Third, if you don’t want a skinny runner’s body, then don’t run long distances. It’s not like once you start running, the pounds will instantly fall off and you’ll be left with a super lean marathon body. Running can be done in short bursts over a couple hundred yards or a long and steady jog across the country. It’s up to you, so claiming that it will give you the body of a teenager is a poor excuse not to run; you dictate what kind of body you want when you exercise. Finally, running will make you feel younger. You won’t be huffing and puffing when climbing stairs, your metabolism will speed up which will equate to less fat on your body, and with less fat on your body- there’s a good chance you’ll live a longer, healthier life.

So what it comes down to is this, are you really more worried about a chance that your skin might sag a little than actually being healthy? Come on everyone, you’re better than that!

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  • December 22, 2016

    by John Rogers

    I guess everyone is different. Some people on here say runners look amazing, but some of the oldest looking people I've ever seen in my life are 40-year-old runners that look 65! This isn't a myth. It happens for many.

  • December 16, 2015

    by Saphrona

    This is what I think and I am backing that up with a professional opinion. I am 62 years old and exercise almost every day since age 14 because I was determined to be a professional dancer. Ya, I'm on it. It never happened but I am in great shape! : )

    Running causes your face to sag

    FALSE. Sagging skin is due to two age-related reasons: loss of collagen, which gives skin its elasticity, and loss of facial fat, the absence of which causes skin to droop. While your whole body bounces up and down while you’re jogging, it’s highly unlikely that you’re jostling around enough to damage collagen, points out Las Vegas–based plastic surgeon Michael Edwards, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

    A more likely cause? Long hours exercising outdoors equals more UV exposure, which over time breaks collagen down. Make sure you slather up with plenty of sunscreen before venturing outside, even in colder weather.

  • December 16, 2015

    by Jed Clampett

    All of this is just an excuse to not exercise! We will all age, the only thing we can do it try to slow it down. That is until scientists come up with the magic pill.

    All this emphasis on weight training is a joke. It's just easier for most people to weight train as they get older as opposed to running. Therefore they make excuses. Young people hate to run, in fact many people hate to run!!!

    Women, as a rule hate to run. Men want to get them to the gym to make some money off them!!! You will get older, suck it up, use your head and get out there!

    Personal Trainer and Runner (Both are integral to health, fitness, and looking good.)

  • December 8, 2015

    by dana

    a bra only solves the problem for the breast. there is tissue all over the body that is susceptible to sagging as a result of not only the constant bouncing. but gravity. this is especially true of aging skin--thighs, upper arms, and face. I try to remember to put on some type of compression garment, not only when I run, but even for day to day activities when I am wearing anything that doesn't hold my skin in place. now, I am thinking of some sort of garment for my face!

  • May 2, 2015

    by Terribla

    I don't want a runners face!

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