According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines, health benefits come with exercising moderately for 150 minutes or vigorously exercising 75 minutes each week. The new study throws these numbers completely into the wind. It doesn’t matter if you run only 30 minutes a week or how intense the running is for that period, you gain the same benefits as running for longer time periods and intensity, as compared to doing no running at all. That is, you have a 30% less chance of dying in both cases compared to someone who doesn’t run at all. The health benefit appears regardless of age, body type, health, sex or whether the person smokes or not.
The research has even better news for those wanting to avoid heart disease and stroke. While running as little as 5 minutes a day lowered the overall risk of death by 30%, it lowered the risk of both heart disease and stroke by 45%. The research also showed those who run live, on average, 3 years longer those those who don’t run at all.
The study examined over 50,137 adults over a 15 year period between the ages of 18 and 100 who participated in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. As part of this study, participants answered questions about their running habits. When the study started, all participants were cancer free and they’d never had an heart attack or stroke. During the 15 years, 3,413 participants died with 1,217 suffering a stroke or heart attack. The study showed the participants who ran even a few minutes a day were less likely to die from these causes.
Nearly one-quarter of the participants (24%) indicated they ran each week as a way to get exercise. Of these, those who consistently ran over a period of six years gained the greatest health benefits from running, which included a 50% decrease in chance of death from cardiovascular disease.
What if you would rather walk than run? Not all is lost, although you’ll need to do it a little longer than 5 minutes a day. Previous studies have indicated walking 15 minutes a day can also extend one’s life by about 3 years, consistent with this current study.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Hunkeler)