Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise. It may also be one of the healthiest. Numerous long-term studies have shown that running benefits people physically and mentally. Research has also found that runners tend to live longer and have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer than nonrunners.
There’s strong evidence linking even very short, occasional runs to significant health benefits, particularly when it comes to longevity and mental well-being. “We’ve found that going for something like a two-mile run a few times a week gets you pretty much the full benefit of running in terms of lower mortality,” said Dr. James H O’Keefe, the director of preventive cardiology at St Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
WHY SHORT RUNS ARE BENEFICIAL
During the past decade, Dr O’Keefe has published multiple studies on running for health and longevity. In one of those studies, he and his colleagues analysed long-term health and exercise data collected from around 5,000 European adults ranging from 20 to 92. Compared to nonrunners, people who ran between one and 2.4 hours per week at a slow or moderate pace enjoyed the greatest reductions in mortality – greater even than among runners who logged more miles at a faster pace.
Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. A 15-year study on over 55,000 Americans ages 18 to 100 found running five to 10 minutes per day at a slow pace (under six miles, or 9.6km, per hour) was associated with “markedly reduced risks” for all causes of death. It was enough to extend a person’s life by several years.
“The growing consensus in the field is that the benefits of running start to accrue within minutes,” said Dr Rajesh Vedanthan, an associate professor of population health at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.
You’re running and your legs suddenly develop a bad case of itchy rashes – what’s the reason for that?
GET A MENTAL BOOST, TOO
A recent research review on exercise and depression found that adults who got the widely recommended 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week had a 25 per cent lower risk of depression compared with people who didn’t exercise at all. But those who completed just half of the recommended 2.5 weekly hours still had an 18 per cent lower risk of depression compared with people who didn’t exercise.
By Markham Heid © The New York Times Company
The article originally appeared in The New York Times.