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Feb 02, 2015

Running for Health? Moderation is Key

You don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap full benefits, according to a new study.

When it comes to the health benefits of running, you don’t have to be a marathoner to extend your life, according to a study that identified the ideal amount of exercise needed to reduce risk of mortality among runners.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study investigated the relationship between jogging and risk of death among healthy adults participating in the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Researchers focused on pace, quantity and frequency of jogging to identify exactly how much exercise is needed to achieve maximum health benefits. Initial findings of the Copenhagen City Heart Study suggest that light jogging a few times a week may be more beneficial than vigorous running. Researchers hoped to fine tune these findings through further analysis.

A total of 1,098 healthy joggers and 3,950 healthy non-joggers were included in the study. Upon enrollment in 2001, study participants provided information about their physical activity levels, and researchers continued to track their health for up to 12 years. After analysis, researchers found that light jogging 2-3 times a week for anywhere from 1-2.4 hours was associated with the lowest mortality and reduced risk of death by up to 78% compared to non-runners. Perhaps most interesting, light and moderate joggers had the lowest risk of death among runners, while strenuous runners actually had similar risk of death compared to non-runners.

These findings suggest that moderation is key when it comes to running, as light jogging a few times a week may help extend life more than frequent vigorous running. As authors argue, strenuous activity may not be necessary to improve longevity and could actually reduce the health benefits of light or moderate physical activity.

Read the full study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much exercise do I need?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.
  • How long should I exercise each day?
  • Although it’s recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, that doesn’t mean you have to do it all at once. By breaking up physical activity into small chunks of time (10 minutes or more), you can fit exercise more easily into your day and get the same health benefits.

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Exercising is one of the single best ways to improve and maintain health. Learn more »