Even tiny doses of running can extend lifespan

"The big problem for many is not having enough time to exercise," says Carl "Chip" Lavie. "Our study demonstrates that one can gain substantial reduction in mortality risks even with low doses of running." (Credit: Theen Moy/Flickr)

Even very brief running—just 5 to 10 minutes a day—can help people live longer, according to new research.

“Running is one of the most convenient and popular exercises,” says Duck-chul “D.C.” Lee, an assistant professor in kinesiology at Iowa State University.

“Running is good for your health—but more may not be better. You don’t have to think it’s a big challenge. We found that even 10 minutes per day is good enough. You don’t need to do a lot to get the benefits from running.”

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, finds that leisure-time runners are expected to live three years longer than non-runners.

The research shows that running can reduce a person’s all-cause mortality rate by 30 percent and cardiovascular mortality rate by 45 percent. This means that running can reduce all mortal health risks, such as cancer, stroke, and heart attack, by nearly a third. Cardiovascular risks are cut nearly in half.

People who ran less than an hour each week showed the same mortality benefits compared to those who ran more than three hours in each week, Lee says.

Does exercise have its limits?

But extensive running can sometimes cause more harm than good. There is also a chance people who do go above and beyond with exercise are opening themselves up for greater risk of joint damage, bone damage, and heart attacks.

“Most people know that exercise is good for their health,” Lee says. “With too much of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, there might be a side effect. Is there any limit that we shouldn’t go over? It is possible that people who do too much might be harming their health. However, we need more studies on this important issue.


Lee looked at data that monitored more than 50,000 individuals’ workout habits for 15 years. He drew conclusions by identifying the cause of death in each individual and relating it to the amount of exercise the person completed weekly.

Lavie says the research is perhaps the largest study about running to date. He says it has long-term follow-up to assess both all-cause and total mortality.

“It is one of the few [studies] that has information about running doses and changes in running patterns over time,” says study coauthor Carl “Chip” Lavie, a cardiologist and professor at the University of Queensland School of Medicine in New Orleans. “It shows that even small running doses, such as six miles per week, one to two times a week, and slower than 10-minute miles, appear to be associated with maximal mortality benefits.”

Not much time, not much money

The work emphasizes the importance of running for a few minutes a day.

“The big problem for many is not having enough time to exercise,” says Lavie. “Our study demonstrates that one can gain substantial reduction in mortality risks even with low doses of running.”

The availability and affordably of running is what attracted Lee to look at the sport’s impact.

“Many studies need some kind of equipment,” Lee says. “Running is so convenient and popular. Most people can run. It’s easy and there are a good number of people who are interested in running as an exercise.”

Researchers from University of South Carolina and Louisiana State University also contributed to the study.

Source: Iowa State University