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.