Luisa Dillner, the Guardian
According to a review of evidence in thejournal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, runners live three years longerthan non-runners. You don’t even have to run fast, or for long, to see abenefit. You can drink, smoke, be overweight and still reduce your risk ofdying early by running – by between 25% and 40%. The authors of the review saythat no other exercise has such an impact – an hour of running will,statistically speaking, increase your life expectancy by seven hours. Whilerunning regularly can’t make you immortal, the review says it is more effectiveat prolonging life than walking, cycling or swimming. Two of the authors of thereview were also involved in a study published in 2014 that found a mere fiveto 10 minutes a day of running, at less than six miles an hour, reduced therisk of heart disease and early deaths from all causes. This is considerablyless effort than government recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate exercisea week – which most people ignore.
The best exercise is one that you enjoy andwill do. But otherwise … it’s probably running. Running is cheap, easy (as inyou go out of your house and just do it) and you can’t fake it – it’s alwaysenergetic. Even a jog counts as moderately vigorous exercise. If you are timepoor, you need run for only half the time to get the same benefits as othersports. Angelique Brellenthin, of the department of kinesiology at Iowa StateUniversity, one of the review’s authors, says it takes 105 minutes of walkingto yield the same benefits as a 25-minute run.
There are tragic but rare deaths duringraces, but non-runners are twice as likely to die from sudden heart attacks andstrokes as runners. To avoid knee pain (and you can’t always, as it may just behow your knee cap is positioned), you can run on soft surfaces, do exercises tostrengthen your leg muscles, avoid hills and get good running shoes. ButBrellenthin says there is no evidence of running increasing the risk ofosteoarthritis of the knee.
Running should be built up gradually andits benefits may plateau at 30 miles a week. Brellenthin says that runners havehigher levels of aerobic fitness, lower levels of body fat and smaller waiststhan those who do other activities. Running may be particularly good atshifting abdominal fat. You only need to do 30 to 60 minutes a week to reap thebenefits, so perhaps we should all give it a try.