This is something you must never ignore. Marathoners are the thoroughbreds of high-performance runners, but even the draft horses of the running world slow and steady joggers improve their health. A study out this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds that even five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all.
Studies show that the minimal healthy “dose” of exercise is smaller than many people might assume. But if your favorite activity is a brisk walk in the park or a quick game of tennis, the research has implications for you, too. “There is no question that if you are not exercising and if you make the decision to start whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or an elliptical machine you are going to be better off,” says cardiologist Dr. Aaron Baggish, the associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and an accomplished runner himself.
The study suggests a relatively low entry level for the benefit of jogging, but it is not a prescription. “A little bit is good but a little bit more is probably better,” Dr. Baggish says. A 2013 study in Denmark suggested that the “sweet spot” for maximum longevity is up to 2.5 hours of running a week.
Although running can trim away some of your existing risk of cardiovascular disease, it doesn’t eliminate it. The combined effect of lifestyle, diet, and family history still contribute to your lifetime risk. “There is no question that the fitter you are and the more exercise you do, the longer you live and the better your quality of life,” Dr. Baggish says. “But it doesn’t confer immunity.”
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