LONDON — The joggers and runners of the world certainly have reason to smile, according to a new international study. Researchers from Australia, Austria, Finland, and Thailand performed a comprehensive analysis on available evidence, and concluded that any amount of running significantly lowers one’s risk of death from any cause.
If more people all over the world incorporated just a little bit of running into their day-to-day lives, the study’s authors say the global population would see great improvements in both overall health and longevity. To be clear, the research team stress that people don’t have to run particularly far, or even very fast, what’s important is simply engaging in the act.
The researchers say they were motivated to perform the study because of a number of unknowns that still remained in reference to running’s health benefits. For example, it was never clear just how effective running is at preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer, or for that matter, exactly how much running an individual must participate in to reap such benefits.
So, in an effort to try and answer some of these questions, the research team reviewed any available and relevant published research, conference presentations, and doctoral dissertations. Specifically, they looked for studies that had investigated the association between running and subsequent risk of death from all causes, cancer, or cardiovascular issues.
All in all, 14 studies were included, encompassing 232,149 people who had had their health tracked for periods of time between 5.5 and 35 years. Within that long time frame, 25,951 of the included study participants passed away.
Upon pooling and analyzing all of that data, researchers determined that any amount of running was associated with a 27% lower risk of death from all causes, in comparison to participants who reported never running. This held true among both genders. Any amount of running was also associated with a 30% lower chance of dying due to cardiovascular disease, and a 23% lower risk of cancer-related death.
Even “small” doses of running, defined as going out for a jog just once every one to two weeks for less than 50 minutes, at a slow average speed of less than 6 miles per hour, were still found to induce significant health and longevity perks. In summation, the research team say their findings point to some light running as a great fitness option for people who may not have enough time most days to get in a full workout.
Perhaps most notably, running more often, or at a more intense pace, wasn’t actually found to up these benefits or further lower one’s risk of death.
However, the study’s authors caution that their work is ultimately observational, and thus can not establish causation. Also, the relatively small number of included studies, all with different methodologies, may have skewed the results.
Still, this set of research provides some convincing evidence that it is definitely a good idea to go out for the occasional jog. “Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity,” the study concludes.
The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.