A new study finds that running for only a few minutes a day or at slow speeds may significantly reduce a person’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease when compared to someone who does not run.
While it is well known that exercise can improve health, authorities traditionally believed 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week were necessary to improve cardiac functions and convey health benefits.
In the study, researchers followed 55,137 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a 15-year period to determine whether there is a relationship between running and longevity.
Data was drawn from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, where participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their running habits.
In the study period, 3,413 participants died, including 1,217 whose deaths were related to cardiovascular disease.
In this population, 24 percent of the participants reported running as part of their leisure-time exercise.
As reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 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.
Also, to reduce mortality risk at a population level from a public health perspective, the authors 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.
The study showed that participants who ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than six miles, slower than six miles per hour, or only one to two times per week had a lower risk of dying compared to those who did not run.
D.C. Lee, Ph.D., lead author of the 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.
Thus, it is possible that more may not be better in relation to running and longevity.
Researchers also looked at running behavior patterns 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.
“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.”
Source: American College of Cardiology