Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner
Running for even 5 to 10 minutes a day, once or twice a week, or at slow speeds was associated with substantial mortality benefits over 15 years, a prospective study showed.
Runners overall had 30% and 45% lower adjusted risks of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality, respectively, over that period and had 3 years longer life expectancy compared with nonrunners, Duck-chul Lee, PhD, of Iowa State University in Ames, and colleagues found.
Running for less than 60 minutes a week -- averaging out to about 8 minutes a day -- was associated with an odds ratios of 0.73 for death from any cause (95% CI 0.61-0.86) and 0.46 for cardiovascular mortality (95% CI 0.33-0.65) compared with nonrunners after adjustment for other factors, including total physical activity from other leisure-time activities.
The associations were also significant at the lowest quintiles of weekly running distance (less than 6 miles), frequency (one to two times), amount (under 506 metabolic equivalent of task or MET-minutes), and speed (less than 6 miles/hour), the group reported in the August 5 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"This study may motivate healthy but sedentary individuals to begin and continue running for substantial and attainable mortality benefits," Lee and colleagues suggested.
The effect of “just doing something at slightly higher intensity” was profound, commented Barry Franklin, PhD, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation in the Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Mich.
“A 30% to 40% reduction in mortality -- that’s huge. That’s equivalent to the same mortality reductions we get by taking a cholesterol-lowering statin or going on a beta-blocker or taking a statin,” he told MedPage Today.
The message that some is better than none is important given that 40% to 80% of the global population remains sedentary despite known health benefits of physical activity, Chi Pang Wen, MD, DrPH, of Taiwan's Institute of Population Health Sciences in Zhunan, and colleagues agreed in an accompanying editorial.
Running is clearly better than walking for the same amount of time in terms of mortality, although walking is probably safer and easier to sustain for those starting from zero, they noted.
About a quarter of long-term runners end up with some type of injury that prevents them from continuing, but that risk is much lower for those who do small amounts rather than endurance running, added Paul Thompson, MD, chief of cardiology and The Athletes’ Heart Program at the Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn.
“One of the things patients frequently say to me is that I’m too busy to get any exercise. Well, that’s true if you’re going to do something that takes a lot of time, like walking,” he told MedPage Today. “The most important thing … is just do it…. We do not need to be athletes to exercise -- it should be part of all of our daily routines."