Slow Easy Runs Can Lengthen Your Life

I’m probably not going to blow any minds out there when I say that running is good for you. Heaps of studies have previously demonstrated what runners have anecdotally known for a long time: running improves your cardiovascular health and can add years to your life. In fact, this knowledge doesn’t just exist in the running culture and people in general tend to look to running as the go-to exercise.

But, perhaps because of this easy popularity, people might be overdoing it on the track. In general, the fitness industry is struggling with a culture of overexertion. People have taken that old – even outdated – proverb “No pain, no gain,” to the extreme. Not only has this lead to a rapid rise in the frequency of injury among exercisers, there has also be a sharp decline in follow-thru. Thanks to the modern thought that workouts have to be extreme to be effective, exercise can be terrifying.

When it comes to running, people often conclude that they just don’t have the time or ability to do it right. So, why bother?

Thankfully, an ever-growing body of research is taking this false fitness doctrine apart brick-by-brick. We now know that you can get the same benefits from short bursts of activity as you can from longer workouts. Brief workouts have been shown to bring with them a whole host of benefits, even some that haven’t been associated with longer workouts.

If your goal is simply to improve your cardiovascular health and avoid heart disease down the road, a new study could bring you relief from epic, time-consuming workouts.


Short and Sweet

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, followed the health and habits of 55,137 adults for 15 years. Specifically, the researchers were looking at the cardiovascular health of the subjects compared with their activity levels. Not surprisingly, runners had a significantly lower risk of heart disease and longer life expectancy when compared with non-runners.

What was surprising, though, was the fact that the duration, frequency and speed of the runs had very little effect on the benefits that the runners could expect. Even when the runners ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than 6 miles, slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one to two times per week they saw benefits in the long-term.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was that runners who clocked in more than 3 hours per week had no more benefits than those who ran for less than an hour per week.


Putting It In Perspective

That doesn’t mean that you can starting chopping all your runs down to size, though. It all depends on your goals. If you’re training for a race, or otherwise actively looking for big gains in speed and/or endurance, you are going to need to push yourself.

On the other hand, if the entire purpose of your run is just to keep your heart healthy, a modest program can be exactly what you need. We often say that the best workout is the one that you actually do, so if keeping your runs short will keep you motivated you go right ahead.




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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.