New research from the Institute for Health & Sport at Victoria University reveals that running for as little as 50 minutes a week can significantly lower the risk of death.
In this study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Associate Professor Zeljko Pedisic and his team systematically reviewed scientific literature and found 14 studies on the association between running participation and risk of death. The studies involved 232,149 people whose health had been tracked for between 5.5 and 35 years. Around 11% of the people died during follow-up.
When the researchers combined the results of included studies, they discovered that compared to people who did not run at all, those who ran had:
- 27% lower risk of death from all causes
- 30% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- 23% lower risk of death from cancer
Such benefits were found even for those running as little as once a week or less than 50 minutes a week. Researchers found no evidence that the benefits increase with higher amounts of running.
“This is a good news for those who don’t have much time on their hands for exercise, but it shouldn’t discourage those who enjoy running longer and more often.” says Associate Professor Pedisic.
While some clinicians may have been discouraged from promoting running as a part of “lifestyle medicine” because vigorous exertion has been linked with sudden cardiac death, this study shows that in the general population the benefit of running outweighs this risk.
Australia is a “nation of runners” with nearly 1.35 million people aged 15 years and over participating in the activity and with the number of recreational runners doubling from 2006 to 2014. The benefits of running found in this study have important implications for the health of the nation.
The researchers, alongside the lead author, Nipun Shrestha, Stephanie Kovalchik, Emmanuel Stamatakis, Nucharapon Liangruenrom, Jozo Grgic, Sylvia Titze, Stuart J.H Biddle, Adrian E Bauman, and Pekka Oja note the number of available studies was relatively small which may have influenced the results.
Nevertheless, they conclude that increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its “dose” would most likely lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity.