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Can short bouts of running lengthen lives?

Working hard and feeling like you don’t have any time to exercise? Well, the reality is we all have time. If you’re feeling bad about not exercising enough or at all, some exciting data crunching from a recent British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) analysis of research on running and mortality rates could supply the motivation you need.

What amount of running is better than no running?

An abundance of research supports the health benefits of exercise. In a blog post last year, I wrote about a study in JAMA that took the first look at the effect of various cardiorespiratory fitness levels on longevity. That study showed that being fit, regardless of age, was associated with living longer. The higher the level of fitness, the higher the survival rate.

Now, a systematic review and meta-analysis in BJSM of 14 observational studies has considered whether running — and what “dose” of running — affects the risk for death from any cause, and from cardiovascular health problems (such as heart attack or stroke) or cancer. The researchers looked at pooled data from just over 230,000 participants who were followed for as little as 5.5 years or as long as 35 years. They found that any amount of running is better than no running. Compared with no running, those who ran habitually — even just once a week — had a 27% lower risk for death from any cause, and a 30% and 23% reduced risk of cardiovascular and cancer mortality, respectively. Running pace and distance didn’t matter. And even those who ran for less than 50 minutes a week saw these benefits. In fact, running for longer amounts of time didn’t lower mortality risks further — at least not in this study.

Needless, to say, this is incredibly motivating for those struggling to find time to exercise.

Because vigorous exertion like running may cause sudden cardiac death in a small number of people, clinicians do not always promote running as a form of exercise for certain groups. However, this study provides good evidence that in the general population, the mortality benefit of running outweighs the risk. And again, even a relatively small investment of time in running regularly still confers benefits.

If you don’t currently run, how can you start safely?

Below are six simple concepts that you can follow to help you avoid injury. Before you start, ask your doctor if running is safe for you. If you have heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, or a current or previous history of cancer or high blood pressure, you should always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

  • Check your equipment. Make sure you have comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing to be active in, and a pair of sneakers i

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Written by Shobha


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