Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise in America. 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 of cardiovascular disease and cancer than non-runners.
There is solid evidence linking even very short, occasional runs to significant health benefits, especially when it comes to longevity and mental well-being. “We found that going for a run of about 2 miles a few times a week gives you virtually all of the benefits of running in terms of lower mortality,” says James H. O’Keefe, director of preventive cardiology at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
FIND OUT WHY SHORT RACES ARE BENEFICIAL
Over the past decade, O’Keefe has published several studies on running for health and longevity. In one such study, he and his colleagues analyzed long-term health and exercise data collected from about 5,000 European adults aged 20 to 92. Compared to non-runners, people who ran between one and 2.4 hours a week at a slow or moderate pace enjoyed the greatest reductions in mortality — even greater than among runners who logged more miles at a faster pace.
Science, habits and prevention in a newsletter for your health and well-being
Other researchers have reached similar conclusions. A 15-year study of more than 55,000 Americans ages 18 to 100 found that running five to ten minutes a day at a slow pace (below 6 mph) 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 begin to accrue within minutes,” says Rajesh Vedanthan, associate professor of population health at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.
GET A MENTAL BOOST TOO
A recent review of research on exercise and depression found that adults who got the widely recommended 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week had a 25% lower risk of depression compared to people who didn’t exercise. But those who completed just half of the recommended 2.5 hours a week still had an 18% lower risk of depression compared to people who didn’t exercise.