A little bit of running can change your life_1

The idea of running can be daunting for people who haven’t tried it since they were in their twenties or even when they were kids.

It often seems tainted with a competitive vibe. Go hard, go fast! Turn yourself inside out and compete in that marathon! It’s a turn off right?

But here’s a good reason to give it a try, at your own pace, in short bursts.

According to a compelling study, led by Australian researchers, “any amount of running is linked to a significantly lower risk of death from any cause.”

The research, published November in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that if more people took up running (and they wouldn't have to run far or fast) there would likely be substantial improvements in population health and longevity.

The study began by asking two questions: how good is running for staving off the risk of death from any cause and particularly from cardiovascular disease and cancer?

And: how much running does a person need to do to reap these potential benefits?

To answer these questions, the researchers analysed 14 studies, involving 232,149 people, whose health had been tracked for between 5.5 and 35 years.

During that time, 25,951 of the study participants had died.

When the study data was pooled, the scientists found that any amount of running or jogging was associated with a 27 per cent lower risk of death from all causes for both sexes, compared with no running.

They also found that running or jogging was associated with a 30 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 23 per cent lower risk of death from cancer.

So how much running do you need to do?

They suggested that a small “dose” of running or jogging, once a week or even less, and lasting less than 50 minutes each time, and at a speed below eight kilometres an hour, was associated with significant health and longevity benefits.

For people getting started, even this can be a challenge, as much psychologically as physically.

So you might start out doing 10 minutes plodding along, four times a week – which adds up to a small dose, and for just about anybody it’s not hard to get your head around.

Curiously, it was found that upping the dose – running longer and harder and faster – didn’t really lower the risk of death from any cause.

Just doing that little bit appears to be enough.

Of course, once you get started, you might find you’re enjoying yourself.

It’s important to note that this was an observational study, which means the reasons for running being so protective of our health – the cause of these benefits – weren’t established.

However, previous studies have found that shorter, more intense sessions of exercise prove to be more beneficial, or at least more efficient in boosting health and fitness.

And there’s another great motivator. Who doesn’t want to feel like a kid again?

The New Daily is a media partner of the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic, which takes place in 100 locations across Australia on Sunday, May 10, raising money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation to help fund breast cancer research. Registrations are open here.