Recent Studies Say Running——Even Once a Week——Can Extend Life Expectancy

Recent studies on a handful of running research finds suggests that people who run, even just once a week or month, have a 27 percent lower risk of premature death.

Running isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But recent studies find that just hitting the pavement once a week, or even a couple times a month, can greatly affect your life expectancy compared with people who don’t run at all.

In fact, frequent and occasional runners might have a 27 percent lower risk of early death, according to recent meta-data analysis published Nov. 4 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“This is good news for the many adults who find it hard to find time for exercise,” says Elaine Murtagh, an exercise physiologist at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland, who was not involved in the study. “Any amount of running is better than none.”

The conclusions were made as part of a meta-analysis, which means the study pulled data from a number of past studies on runners, health, and life expectancy. The goal was to look for trends or correlations among many running studies, especially since previous studies all vary in how they define a “runner” and the controls used like distance, pace, frequency etc., according to one ScienceNews article.

The meta-analysis pooled data from 14 previously published studies, which collectively asked 232,149 participants about their running habits and then tracked their health over a period of time from 5 ½ to 35 years.

Over the course of each study, a total of 25,951 participants died, which allowed researchers to look for statistical associations between running and risk of death.

Between runners who run no more than once a week for less than 50 minutes to running every day for a weekly total of 250, the analysis indicated that runners had a 27 percent reduced risk of death from any cause compared with non-runners. Public health researcher Željko Pedišić of Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia said “all these doses of running are significantly associated with lower risk of death.”

While the study was not able to conclude any specific correlation between life expectancy and other running factors, the lower risk of early death was more or less the same across all running doses—and this suggests that any running is better than none.

“Not finding a trend does not mean that the trend does not exist,” Pedišić cautions. A trend could be too small to be detected within the sample size. Studying the health effects of heavy running can be difficult because there aren’t many people who run that much, he said.

While more evidence is needed to examine the specific benefits of running duration, frequency, speed, and other factors, running just a little bit is guaranteed to do more harm than good. It turns out there might be perks to hitting the pavement that go beyond getting your daily exercise.

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