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Just a Little Running Pays Big Dividends

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If you’re not a runner now, but you’ve thought about it, science just gave you another reason.

Running lowers the risk of premature death by 27%. And if you’re short on time in your daily routine (or a burning urge to run) the good news is that this benefit is yours even if you only run once a week.

This finding comes from a large-scale study of studies—a meta-analysis. It pulled together results from 14 separate studies that involved 232,149 people and tracked them from 5.5 to 35 years.

When all the data was melded and crunched, runners had an edge too significant to dismiss.

Runners not only tended to live longer, but they also had a 30% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and 22% lower rates of cancer.

The true benefits of running have been argued hotly over the years. What makes this study so significant is the number of people analyzed and how long they were tracked. In addition to that, this meta-analysis covered a wide spectrum of people defined as runners, not just marathoners and dedicated road warriors. Some ran regularly and long, some ran more infrequently and for shorter times.

It didn’t matter. The health effects of running did not seem to depend on the dose.  Any amount of running will probably be good for you as long as you maintain sanity.

In fact, it’s only when runners log more than 250 minutes a week that running seems to be bad for them.

Apart from knees, shins, and feet, that is. While running does not call for extreme training or elite equipment, a good pair of well-fitting shoes and a safe place to practice are necessary.

It’s also a good idea to begin slowly. Don’t run too long, and don’t try to set a new land for speed right away.

But if the whole idea of running seems as daunting as climbing the Himalayas, relax. Learning to run is something you can approach in steps. You can begin by walking faster and adding some arm pumping.

But the best way to get into real running is with intervals. Walk, then add a short spurt of running. For instance, you might begin with 30 seconds of running and then walking until your heart rate slows down again.  Keep increasing your run time until you get to 2 minutes interspersed with 4 minutes of walking. Keep adding a minute of running each week. When you can run for 5 minutes, cut the walking down to 3 minutes. 

And so it goes…  Within weeks you should be able to run for 15-30 minutes. You’ll be healthier, possibly thinner, and you’ll be doing what you can to live long and well.


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