Story at a glance

  • New meta-analysis of running habits found that even a small amount of running can make a big difference.
  • Running for 50 minutes per week is associated with a whopping 27 percent reduced risk of premature death.
  • Running is also associated with a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Most Americans don’t do the amount of exercise they should. But a new study suggests that just a fraction of the recommended time for exercising could make a big difference for your health.

New research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that running for 50 minutes once per week was associated with a 27 percent lower risk of death from all causes. The World Health Organization recommends that people get 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, plus strength training every week. That might seem like an impossible commitment to make right away, considering less than a quarter of Americans meet that goal, as Time reported in June. But the new study suggests that a smaller change would still be a big help compared to not exercising at all.

The researchers looked at 14 previous studies on running’s effect on health and reanalyzed the collected data, which they published on Nov. 4. Individual studies on the health effects of running had conflicting results, reports ScienceNews, which is why the authors chose this meta-analysis approach. The data they looked at tracked running habits of 232,149 people over five-and-a-half to 35 years. Because 25,951 died over the course of the 14 studies, the researchers were able to associate running habits with risk of death. Even minimal running habits, like a small “dose,” were enough to make a difference.

“All these doses of running are significantly associated with lower risk of death,” Željko Pedišić, an author of the study, told ScienceNews. “There was no significant difference between frequency, duration or pace.” But, Pedišić added, it’s hard to study the health effects of people who run very often because there are fewer of them.

Based on the study, running can also reduce a person’s risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, Runner’s World reports. Association is not causation, though, and the opposite might be the case: it might be easier for people without those health conditions to keep up with a running habit.

“This finding may be motivating for those who cannot invest a lot of time in exercise,” Pedišić told Runner’s World.

Published on Nov 07, 2019