Running has been a popular form of exercise since the 1970s, and for good reason. Research shows that running even just once a week is enough for you to enjoy its benefits. In fact, a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that any amount of running could decrease your risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Previous studies have shown that running for about five to ten minutes a day at a moderate pace can help reduce the risk of death from heart attack and stroke. However, these benefits max out at 4.5 hours per week, which suggests that people don’t need to run for hours every day to benefit from the exercise. (Related: Running Towards Health – Study Shows Running Also Benefits Older Persons.)
In the study, a team led by Australian researchers investigated the association between running and the risk of death from all causes, particularly heart disease and cancer. After analyzing data from fourteen studies with a total of 232,149 participants, they reported the following:
- Regardless of the amount of time, distance or frequency, running is associated with a 27 percent lower risk of death from all causes for men and women.
- Any amount of running per week is associated with a 30 percent reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 23 percent reduced risk of death from cancer.
- Any amount of running — even just once a week — could lead to substantial health improvements and increase longevity, but running frequently and for longer durations does not necessarily lead to greater reductions in a person’s risk of death from all causes.
Current guidelines set by the Department of Health and Human Services recommend that people get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (e.g., running, cycling, swimming or walking) per week. This is supported by an earlier study by Danish researchers, who found that a person can enjoy maximum benefits by running for 30 minutes each day, five times a week. But this recent Australian-led study suggests that people can run for less than the recommended total hours per week and still enjoy considerable benefits, which is great news for many working adults.
Other health benefits of running
Taking up running doesn’t just benefit your heart. Other studies have also linked the following benefits to this aerobic exercise:
- Helps improve mood and sleep quality — According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, running every morning can help increase the amount of slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep, that you get at night. Running can also help stabilize your mood and decompress your mind.
- Helps boost mental focus and alertness — Aerobic exercises like running increase blood flow to your brain, which can leave you feeling alert and invigorated.
- Helps lower obesity risk — Running is the best exercise for burning extra calories. Hence, developing a weekly running routine can help you shed some pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
- Helps with diabetes management — Experts say that running is the best exercise for diabetics because it helps improve insulin sensitivity. This is very important for stabilizing blood sugar levels. A study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases also found that a healthy lifestyle, which includes dietary changes and increased physical activity, can help lower a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.
- Increases longevity — According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, running for five to 10 minutes a day at low speeds (less than six miles per hour) can help increase your life expectancy. Brisk walking in the park or a quick game of tennis also offers the same benefits, suggesting that any amount of exercise is better for you in the long run than no exercise at all.
Running is an inexpensive exercise that doesn’t require any equipment. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it offers incredible health benefits. All it takes for you to enjoy them and maintain good overall health is commitment. To maximize the benefits of running, commit to a weekly schedule and combine it with a well-balanced diet and other healthy lifestyle changes.
Health.news has more on the benefits of regular exercise.