According to new evidence, running even affects what is inside of your bones – in a good way!

You may already know that running can help you age better by improving your mental health, giving you cleaner arteries and denser bones and by strengthening your heart and lungs. But now you can add to the list the fact that it can keep your spinal marrow tissue healthy. In fact, every six miles you run per week can take a year off of this crucial tissue’s age, according to new research published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

The study examined spinal marrow adipose tissue (MAT) in four different groups of people: runners averaging 12 to 25 miles every week, runners averaging a minimum of 30 miles per week, cyclists averaging a minimum of 90 miles per week and sedentary people. Each group had about 25 people in it, with a total of 101 overall (54 being women). The average age of the subjects was 30. Interestingly, the key finding was that the two groups of people who were runners had the lowest MAT levels of all, which is a good thing. Even though the cyclists were highly active, their MAT levels were similar to the idle group.

So why is this important? According to lead researcher Daniel Belavy, associate professor at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, “Humans are born with predominately red blood cell producing bone marrow; however, with age, this converts to a yellow fatty marrow. This can negatively impact blood and bone metabolism in areas such as the pelvis, vertebra, thighs and hips, and contribute to other chronic conditions such as diabetes and osteoporosis.”

Marrow is like a type of regulatory organ that has an impact on what happens throughout the rest of your body. When you have more MAT, your body has less space for marrow to produce red blood cells. MAT levels are also believed to influence fat stores in other areas. When your marrow tissue is fatty, the regulatory processes slow down.

According to Belavy, the runners who were most active, running over 30 miles per week, had the healthiest tissue. Their marrow tissue was eight years “younger” than the people in the sedentary group.

According to researchers in this study, when it comes to this discovery about adipose tissue, it is not simply about runners being leaner than other people. The study did include cyclists who were highly active, riding at least 90 miles each week. The point is that “Marrow fat is governed by different rules than the fat stores under the skin,” according to Belavy. It is about much more than just burning calories.

So keep your mileage up to keep even more areas of your body as young and strong as possible!