Running can help us live longer, but much more running doesn’t mean better

Running is free, you don’t need tools and you can see beautiful scenery – it’s no wonder running is one of the most popular sports in the world. The number of recreational runners in Australia has doubled from 2006 to 2014. Currently, more than 1.35 million Australians (7.4%) run for recreation and sports.

Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that running can significantly improve health and reduce the risk of death at any time. And we don’t need to run fast or far to get the benefits.

Previous research has found that running reduces the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, disability, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Running also increases aerobic endurance, heart function, balance, and metabolism.

These things are important components of our overall health. So, it certainly makes sense if running is associated with an increase in life span. But the available scientific evidence does not consistently support this link. Our study summarizes the results of 14 individual studies on the relationship between running or jogging with the risk of death from various causes, heart disease, and cancer.

We collected data on more than 230,000 study participants, 10% of whom were runners. These studies track the health of participants for 5.5 to 35 years. During the study period, 29,951 participants died. When we collect data from the study, we found runners had a 27% lower risk of death caused by anything during the study period than non-runners.

Specifically, running is associated with a reduction in the risk of death from heart disease by 30% and from cancer by 23%.

More is not necessarily better

We found that running once a week, or 50 minutes a week, can reduce the risk of death at any time. This benefit does not seem to increase or decrease with increasing running portions.

This is good news for those who don’t have much time to exercise. But this finding should also not prevent those who like to run longer and more often. We find that “hard-line” runners (for example, routinely run every day or four hours a week) benefits health.

Benefits also do not increase with increased running speed. We found that running at speeds between 8 and 13 kilometers per hour has the same benefits. It seems that running at “the most comfortable for us” speed is the best for health.

But remember, there are risks too Running can result in injury due to overuse (overuse). This injury occurs because of repeated mechanical stress on the body’s tissues without sufficient healing time. A history of injury and a longer duration of activity increase the risk.
We can minimize risk by avoiding uneven or hard running paths, appropriate footwear, and not increase the speed or duration of a sudden run. Importantly, we found that the benefits of running far outweighed the risks associated. Short duration and low speed when running will reduce the risk.

For a beginner

Start slowly and gradually increase the weekly rate, duration, and frequency. Aim to run 50 minutes every week or so, and run at a comfortable pace. Keep your spirits up, but don’t run until you run out of steam. The benefits will be the same, no matter whether we run in one session or divided into several sessions a week.

If you don’t like running alone, try joining a running community or taking part in running activities. Running in groups can increase motivation and be a fun social tool.

Starting to run can be hard, but not very heavy. If you don’t like running, don’t force it; there are more than 800 other interesting sports. Many other sports (such as swimming, tennis, bicycle, and aerobics) have benefits comparable to what we find in running.

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