Running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely, according to a large-scale new study of exercise and mortality. The findings suggest that the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed.
So for the new study, published on Monday in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers from Iowa State University, the University of South Carolina, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisina, and other institutions turned to a huge database maintained at the Cooper Clinic and Cooper Institute in Dallas.
From this database, the researchers chose the records of 55,137 healthy men and women ages 18 to 100 who had visited the clinic at least 15 years before the start of the study. Of this group, 24 per cent identified themselves as runners, although their mileage and pace varied widely.
The researchers then checked death records for these adults. In the intervening 15 or so years, almost 3,500 had died, many from heart disease.
But the runners were much less susceptible than the non-runners. The runners’ risk of dying from any cause was 30 per cent lower than that for the non-runners, and their risk of dying from heart disease was 45 per cent lower than for non-runners, even when the researchers adjusted for being overweight or for smoking (although not many of the runners smoked).
Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least.
“We think this is really encouraging news,” said Timothy Church, a professor at the Pennington Institute who holds the John S McIlHenny Endowed Chair in Health Wisdom and co-authored the study. “We’re not talking about training for a marathon,” he said. “Most people can fit in five minutes a day of running,” he said, “no matter how busy they are, and the benefits in terms of mortality are remarkable.”
- GRETCHEN REYNOLDS