Looking for a way to lower your risk of dying from heart disease, but you’re short on time? Here’s a tip to living longer while working out less.

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Common Exercise Barrier

One of the biggest barriers to exercise is time. People often nix working out because they decide they don’t have an hour (or even a half hour) to spare. If that sounds like you, here’s the good news…

Researchers studied 55,000 adults aged 18 to 100 for over 15 years. They studied the following:

  • Overall health
  • Whether they ran
  • How long they lived

Clinical Examination

Physicians recorded and analyzed the following:

  • Resting blood pressure
  • Blood glucose
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness (assessed using a maximal treadmill stress test)
  • Health behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure-time physical activity)
  • Physician-diagnosed medical conditions
  • Parental history of cardiovascular disease

The study excluded analyses from individuals who reported participating in other activities besides running (e.g, cycling, swimming, walking, basketball, racquet sports, aerobic dance, and other sports-related activities).

The Results (Compared with Non-Runners):

  • Runners had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes .
  • Runners had a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Runners had a 50% lower risk of sudden cardiac death.

Cardiorespiratory fitness is a strong predictor of morbidity and mortality. (Morbidity is the condition of being unhealthy, ill, or diseased. Morbidity is the condition of being dead.) Runners had approximately 30% higher cardiorespiratory fitness than non-runners.

If You’re “Unhealthy”, Can You Still Benefit from Running?   

The study found that runners with existing health conditions (e.g., obesity, smoking, and/or diabetes) were less likely to die from heart issues compared to non-runners. They compared smokers that were runners with non-running smokers; diabetic runners with diabetic non-runners, etc.

Athlete running man - male runner in San Francisco
How often and how fast you run make little difference.

Speed and Frequency of Running Routine

How fast and how often a person ran did not make a significant difference. The following was sufficient to reduce your risk of dying compared to NOT running:

  • Running less than 51 minutes per week
  • Running only 1 to 2 days per week
  • Running less than 6 miles per week, OR
  • Running slower than 6.0 mph

If 5 Minutes Is Good, Is 50 Minutes Better?

Researchers found runners who ran more than 3 hours per week (or more than 50 minutes per day of vigorous-intensity activity) did NOT show any greater mortality benefits compared to those who ran less than an hour per week. In fact, the benefits appeared to be the same, but they could not determine why.

  • Health benefits seem to diminish when running beyond a certain period of time. 
  • Recent studies have proposed that excessive endurance sports may potentially cause adverse cardiovascular events (e.g., arrhythmias, myocardial damage).
Runner trail running fitness man on endurance run - motivation and concentration on race in sky and clouds background on nature landscape. Focused athlete with backpack and hairband training cardio.
Excessive endurance sports may cause heart damage.

Consistency is the Key to Gaining the Most Benefits

Runners that ran consistently for six years or more showed:

  • 29% lower risk of death from any cause
  • 50% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke

Reduce Diabetes Risk

Running and other physical activities can reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) by:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Decreasing blood glucose

Precautions!

  • Warm up first before going out for your run.
  • Get into a running routine gradually (even if it’s a short jog around the block ) to prevent injuries and other complications. 
  • Inactive people should start with a transitional phase, e.g., walking. 
  • Talk to your doctor first before training — especially if you have any chronic conditions.

Karen’s Fit Tip: If you’re not used to exercising, these results can help motivate you. Running for just 5 to 10 minutes a day at slow (leisurely) speeds isn’t as intimidating or time-consuming as training for 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Try it for 30 days!
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xo

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