A new study found that running for only a few minutes a day, or at slow running speeds may considerably lower a person’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease, in comparison to someone who does not run at all.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at 55,137 adults aged 18 to 100 over a 15-year period to establish whether there is a relationship between running and longevity or not. Compared with non-runners, the runners had a 30 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
Runners on average lived three years longer compared to non-runners.
Running as Important as Not Smoking
To reduce mortality from a public health point of view, the researchers concluded that promoting running is as important as preventing smoking, obesity or hypertension.
The benefits were the same no matter how long, far, frequently or fast participants reported running. Benefits were also the same regardless of sex, age, body mass index, health conditions, smoking status or alcohol use.
According to the study, participants who ran fewer than 6 miles, less than 51 minutes, slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one to two times per week had a lower risk of dying compared to those who did not run.
More is Not Necessarily Better
Duck-chul Lee, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Iowa State University Kinesiology Department, said they found that runners who ran less than an hour per week have the same mortality benefits compared to runners who ran more than three hours per week. Therefore, it is possible that the more may not be the better in relation to running and longevity.
“Since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in physical activity, the study may motivate more people to start running and continue to run as an attainable health goal for mortality benefits,” Lee said. “Running may be a better exercise option than more moderate intensity exercises for healthy but sedentary people since it produces similar, if not greater, mortality benefits in five to 10 minutes compared to the 15 to 20 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity that many find too time consuming.”
Researchers also examined running routines and found that those who persistently ran over a period of six years on average had the most significant benefits, with a 29 percent lower risk of death for any reason and 50 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
Duck-chul Lee, Russell R. Pate, Carl J. Lavie, Xuemei Sui, Timothy S. Church, Steven N. Blair. Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2014; 64 (5): 472 DOI:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058