In an age where it seems like everyone on your Facebook feed is completing marathons and Ironman triathlons, a new study comes with good news for those of us who don’t have the time, energy, or desire to train for long distance events.
You don’t have to run a marathon
In the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers examined the long-term effects of running on cardiovascular (heart) disease risk. The study looked at self-reported data from more than 55,000 adults – age 18- 100 years old – and followed up with them about 15 years later.
About 24 percent of the research participants were runners. Compared to the non-runners in the study, the runners had a 30 percent lower risk of dying from any cause and a 45 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. The scientists also said that runners in the study had an additional three years of life expectancy.
But we already knew running was good for us and protected us from heart disease and other causes of death, right? The most notable thing about this research was the amount of running you need to do to gain these benefits.
The bottom line? Not much.
The positive effects on runners’ health were similar regardless of running time, distance, frequency, amount, and speed, when compared with non-runners in the study. To gain the health benefits, all runners had to do was run 1-2 times per week, for a total miles of 6 miles, at a pace of 10 minutes per mile. In fact, runners who run less than one hour per week had the same mortality benefits as those who ran three or more hours each week.
As the researchers concluded, “running, even 5 to 10 minutes per day and at slow speeds less than 6 miles per hour (a 10 minute mile pace), is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.”
The take home message
Even if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to exercise, running a modest amount is enough to protect your health. So don’t get discouraged if you can “only” run a handful of miles each week – some running is better than none when it comes to your health.
But if you have the time, it’s best to meet the minimum exercise guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity exercise each week, such as running. For even greater health benefits, aim for at least 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity or 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of intense exercise each week.
Remember that for an activity to “count” as exercise, you need to do it for 10 continuous minutes. So, break up the exercise time recommendations however it fits into your schedule – three 25 minute-long runs, five 15 minute-long runs, or two half hour-long runs plus a quick 15-minute jaunt each week.
Written by Jen Matz.