Lower Your Heart Disease Risk in Just 5 Minutes

A new study suggests running, every for a few minutes a day, can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease – whether you plod along or go at race speed.

The Evidence: Researchers studied more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 19 and 100 over a 15-year period, looking at their overall health, whether they ran, and how long they lived.

  • Runners had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes and a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Runners on average lived 3 years longer than those who did not run.
  • When the data was broken down by age, sex, body mass index, and smoking and alcohol use, the benefits were the same. Even those with negative factors such as obesity, smoking, and diabetes benefit. For example, those who were obese and ran had a lower likelihood of death from heart problems (as compared to obese people who did not run). The same for smokers, diabetics, etc.
  • Speed and frequency did not make a huge difference. In fact, runners who ran less than an hour per week had the same mortality benefits compared to runners who ran more than 3 hours per week.

Researchers did find that consistency is important. Participants who ran consistently over a period of 6 years or more gained the most benefits, with a 29% lower risk of death for any reason, and a halving of the risk of death from heart disease or stroke. 

My Take: This study adds to a growing pile of studies linking physical activity to better (and longer) life. And, you don’t have to run: If you are able, after checking with your health care provider, aim for a minimum of the equivalent of a brisk walk for 150 minutes per week (for example, 30 minutes for five times per week). I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

Reference: Journal of the American Journal of Cardiology, Volume 64, Issue 5; 5 August 2014, Pages 482-484.

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