Running for health: Even a little bit is good, but a little more is probably better

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Marathoners are the thoroughbreds of high-performance runners, but even the draft horses of the running world — slow and steady joggers — improve their health. A study out this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds that even five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all. It shows that the minimal healthy “dose” of exercise is smaller than many people might assume.

But if your favorite activity is a brisk walk in the park or a quick game of tennis, the research has implications for you, too. “There is no question that if you are not exercising and if you make the decision to start — whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or an elliptical machine — you are going to be better off,” says cardiologist Dr. Aaron Baggish, the associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and an accomplished runner himself

Take five to stay alive

The new study focused on a group of more than 55,000 men and women ages 18 to 100. About a quarter of them were runners. Over 15 years, those who ran just 50 minutes a week or fewer at a moderate pace were less likely to die from either cardiovascular disease or any cause, compared with those who didn’t run at all.

The study suggests a relatively low entry level for the benefit of jogging, but it is not a prescription. “A little bit is good but a little bit more is probably better,” Dr. Baggish says. A 2013 study in Denmark suggested that the “sweet spot” for maximum longevity is up to 2.5 hours of running a week.

Although running can trim away some of your existing risk of cardiovascular disease, it doesn’t entirely eliminate it. The combined effect of lifestyle, diet, and family history still contribute to your lifetime risk.

“There is no question that the fitter you are and the more exercise you do, the longer you live and the better your quality of life,” Dr. Baggish says. “But it doesn’t confer immunity.”

Feeling better

This study used preventing death to measure the benefit of running, but it’s not the most typical reason for running. “Many dedicated long-term runners do not run because they want to live longer,” Dr. Baggish notes. “They run because it makes them feel better on a daily basis. There is a mood elevating, quality-of-life benefit that comes from being a regular exerciser.”

For regular runners, the cost of feeling good can be strains and sprains, so Dr. Baggish advocates for the value of what he calls “active rest.” His rule of thumb, not supported by any specific research, is that it’s a good idea to spend 25% of exercise time over the course of a year running at a lower level of intensity or doing other activities like swimming or biking.

“The body responds to training, but to preserve that benefit over the long haul there needs to be active periods of recovery,” Dr. Baggish says. “Pulling back allows the body to repair and heal.”


  1. Wounded Warrior

    Did anyone else read recently that too much running is a strain on your heart?

  2. Jason

    Running makes body slim and well shaped. Thus, to make my self fit I am running for 5 years daily.

  3. cutemaryam

    Many long-term runners do not run because they want to live longer.Morning Walk is a good Habbit to keep healthy wealthy and wise.

  4. cutemaryam

    This Article is Informative please give us more information.

  5. irene

    With the so called civilised world becoming swapped with obesity and its related problems we all need to find ways to address our weight issues and this must start with changing our dietary intake and our levels of exercise. Without these 2 key components we are fighting a losing battle.

  6. Julie Karla

    I have been running for years and like described above, it just makes me feel better generally. I tend to be a lot more energized all day long from a run in the morning. I noticed that a Danish study is being referenced above, and since I’m from Denmark, I just want to ask what you think about bicycling? We are really a country of cyclists in Denmark and not just runners, and due to my day job, I find little or no time to run in the morning any more, but I use my bicycle on my way to work instead, but does it reveal the same health benefits as running does? Best Karla

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  8. Leonard

    I like the idea “A little bit is good but a little bit more is probably better” . I am a young man running to keep many diseases away from me. I started from jogging for few minutes and now I am jogging for one hour at the morning and one hour in the evening. This jogging really helps to maintain my blood pressure and help me to keep my medical profile low. Daily exercise helps me to keep my body relaxed and makes my mind fresh. With the regular exercise I feel very much better. I think that a day without jogging is a day wasted for me. But to maintain a good healthy life sound sleep is also essential.

    I think that regular exercise with sound sleep is the best thing that makes our body relaxed, refreshed and makes our mind clear. But from some months I am having problem with the time management so I am now jogging for few minutes only. So should I get up early (but disturb my sound sleep) to maintain the time or should I reduce my jogging time?

  9. liza sht

    I am also health conscious nowadays due to some medical problems. I find good information about for me in this blog. I found article of Health Havard publication very good and quite useful for me

  10. Eric

    I am at 70+, I will be counted as a senior. I have been slow jogging daily for the last 20 to 25 years and the last 4 – 5 years, I have been slow jogging ( in the park in the bright sunshine – minus glasses & minus sun block in the tropical sun ) at about 8 kph for abt 20 mins each session twice a day. The important thing is to land on the front part of the feet so that the arch can act like a shock absorber.
    The article above mentioned about ‘sweet spot’ of about 30 mins daily but I prefer to do the jog twice to average up my metabolic rate. Up to date, I have no knee problems, no skin cancer, no broken bones ( last fall about 5 months back due new experiment with over sized shoes – bruised, bleeding shoulders but hand took the most impact and was swollen and blue black ) etc…The last three years, I ended my jogs with another 5 mins on the rebounder.

  11. Mike

    I ran for many years, now I am a senior. We must be very careful not to damage our knee joints and other muscles, especially the spine. Interval jogging might be a better option for older folks.

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