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Forget a marathon or even a 10k. Just 10-15 minutes of running done on a regular basis can add years to your life, even if it is done at a comfortable pace, says a new study. And the benefits are huge – the study has found that runners were 30% less likely to die from age related diseased over a 15 year period in later life. This moderate exercise was found to be as beneficial to health as stopping smoking. The largest reduction in mortality was seen in those doing just a little bit of exercise compared to those who did none. More exercise did not necessarily bring more benefits.
As an example, those who ran for just 6 miles a week cut their risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke by almost 60% (compared to non-runners), but the group who ran more, up to 20 miles a week, were only 20% less likely to die than the non-runners.
This new news flies in the face of government advice that people should do three hours of exercise a week. It shows that many of the health benefits (although not all the fitness and strength benefits) could be achieved exercising less than this.
The study, by the University of Iowa, followed 55,000 adults over 15 years. Professor Albert Ferro, of King’s College London, said “this is an important study because it establishes, for the first time, in a large population of subjects studied, that even very low level exercise is associated with increased survival…high level exercise was not associated with any greater benefits than low level exercise – and indeed low level exercise may have been more protective.
Dr Lee of the University of Iowa, said “since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in exercise, the study may motivate more people to start running, and to continue to run as an attainable health goal”.
Oliver Monfredi, lecturer in Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Manchester said running, even at a slow pace is considered moderate intensity exercise and this study proves what physicians have long thought, that any exercise is better than none at all.
“The message is certainly encouraging” he said. I would urge people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who are taking up exercise to go to a gym and get an assessment and advice on how to exercise safely and slowly at first. Listen to your body, any chest pain, dizziness and palpitations are symptoms that should be taken notice of”.
Other studies have also shown that running can greatly improve bone density, connective tissue strength and co-ordination. It also has the advantage of being one of the most accessible forms of exercise available; there is no gym membership needed and no equipment, apart from some good trainers. Those that argue that running is bad for the knees may be right in only a very small minority of cases, but nothing is as bad for your knees as sitting on the sofa!
By Robert Adam Atkinson