If you don’t think you have time to go for a run, think again.
Running just five minutes a day could add years to your life and provide the same health benefits as running much more, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Even if you aren’t a fan of running, that’s not a lot to ask.
Almost everyone has five minutes to spare. This finding suggests that it takes longer to put on workout clothes and shoes and to clean up and change again afterward than it does to do something that could make you significantly healthier.
“Since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in physical activity, the study may motivate more people to start running and continue to run as an attainable health goal,” said DC Lee, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Iowa State University Kinesiology Department, in the news release.
Researchers followed a group of 55,137 adults for 15 years. Their ages ranged from 18 to 100, with an average age of 44. During that time period, 3,413 people died, 1,217 for reasons related to cardiovascular issues.
Runners were 30% less likely to die than non-runners, even if they didn’t run a lot, and 45% less likely to die from heart disease or stroke.
And while the study was not designed to determine whether running was the root cause of those outcomes, any running at all was associated with an extra three years of life expectancy.
About a quarter of the total group identified as “runners,” though that group was then subdivided into groups who ran anywhere from more than 20 miles a week and more than 25 minutes a day to those who ran fewer than six miles a week and only five to 10 minutes a day.
The really crazy part is that the running-related health benefits for all those groups were similar, even after controlling for other exercise habits, age, sex, weight, smoking, drinking, and family history of heart disease. Running a lot more wasn’t necessarily better than running just a little, at least not in terms of risk of cardiovascular problems.
So is there something particularly special about running that makes it stand out more than other exercise?
Not really, according to Timothy Church, a professor at the Pennington Institute and co-author of the study. It’s more about intense exercise, he told The New York Times.
Running is an easy way to get intense exercise, even if you aren’t a particularly fast runner. It takes a lot more out of you than things that qualify as moderate exercise, like walking.
“Running just happens to be the most convenient way for most people to exercise intensely,” Church told The Times.
But if you really hate the idea of running, even if you know you don’t have to do much of it, he suggests picking something else that qualifies as vigorous activity and doing that at least five minutes a day — jumping rope or intense biking, for example.
The benefits are remarkable.