Like many Americans, you may have started the new year by making a commitment to improve your health or reduce your weight. Yet you found the task overwhelming, or just didn’t know where to start. If that's the case, there's good news - a recent study has found the perfect motivation to release yourself from a sedentary lifestyle. It turns out that you can make big improvements to your health with surprisingly little effort.
Previous research has shown that certain types of high intensity physical workouts can have significant health benefits. But high intensity exercise is, well, intense! It takes a high level of determination and commitment to push yourself to the limit several days a week. But now, scientists say that even a low intensity running workout can improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease in just 5-10 minutes of daily effort.
The researchers in this 2014 study examined the effects of running on all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risks. The research involved data collection from more than 55,000 adults of all ages, with a mean age of 44 years.
Their conclusion is that running just 5 to 10 minutes a day at a reasonably slow speed (under 6 miles/hour) can markedly reduce your risk of death from all causes, particularly cardiovascular disease.
To gather this data, researchers from several colleges and institutions used a massive database containing decades of information about the health of both men and women who had gotten clinic check-ups and had completed a questionnaire that surveyed them about their exercise habits. Participants were asked questions about if, how often, and how fast they ran.
The researchers then compared the death records of the participants and found that those who identified themselves as runners were about 30% less likely to have died from any cause compared to non-runners, and were 45% less likely to have died from heart disease.
An interesting discovery from the statistics is the fact that the benefits did not vary much among the runners, no matter their weekly running duration or speed. So, if you enjoy running fast, far, or frequently, go for it - but if your goal is longevity or heart health, you don't need to. Those who ran as little as 5-10 minutes daily and at a comfortable pace (slower than 10 minutes/mile) did just about as well by these health measurements.
The researchers also found that the mortality risk for runners was lower than for walkers and others who chose less physical activities than running, meaning that even light running is better for your health than walking.
With evidence that even small amounts of daily running provides substantial and attainable benefits, researchers hope that many sedentary people will be motivated to begin and continue running. If you're looking for a way to get healthy, but don't think you have the time
NOTE: Before you lace up those running shoes and head out the door, make sure you consult with your doctor, especially if you have any known medical issues, or have never previously undertaken any vigorous exercise program.