Some people love to exercise so much that they feel sad if they have to miss a day. Others don't come close to getting in the recommended 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
Happily for these folks, a new study shows that you may not actually need this much — of course, more is better, but less may be just fine for some people, too.
The study followed over 55,000 people in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study for 15 years. Participants were between the ages of 18 and 100. About a quarter said they ran to some degree in their leisure time. The team also tracked how many participants died over the course of the study, and of what cause.
People who ran just an hour per week enjoyed the same health benefits of those who ran three.
The authors calculated that encouraging people to run would have the same public health benefits as encouraging them to quit smoking.
Long-term commitment does count: People who ran for about six years saw the most benefit, with a 29% reduced risk of death from any cause, and a 50% reduced risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
But here’s the most interesting result: People who ran just an hour per week enjoyed the same health benefits of those who ran three. And people who ran slowly (less than six miles per hour) or not very much — less than 6 miles per week, less than 51 minutes per week, or only one or two times per week — still had reduced risk of death, compared to non-runners.
Earlier research has suggested that every little bit counts when it comes to exercise, and it seems to add up over the course of a day: That’s why health officials recommend taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking a little further from work. The new report shows a related effect, illustrating that even less than the recommended amount of vigorous activity can still reduce the risk of death.
“Running may be a better exercise option than more moderate intensity exercises for healthy but sedentary people since it produces similar, if not greater, mortality benefits in five to 10 minutes compared to the 15 to 20 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity that many find too time consuming.”
So, if you’re up for it (and your doctor gives you the ok) start with just five minutes of running — or any type of vigorous activity per day. If you love it, you can always do more. If you don’t, take a break and try it again tomorrow — you can always work your way up from there.
The study was carried out at Iowa State University Kinesiology Department and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.