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Running Five Minutes a Day Can Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

September 12, 2014

Your alarm goes off at 6 a.m.—it’s time for another busy Monday. After hitting the snooze button two or three times, you roll out of bed and go wake your kids up for school. As you’re rushing to get ready for work, you’re trying to feed your kids breakfast, get them ready for school and make it out the door on time. Once you arrive to work, you’ve got a full day ahead of you, filled with emails, meetings and project deadlines.

You could use a break, you think. But after work, you need to take your daughter to her dance lesson, pick your son up from soccer practice, cook dinner and do laundry. And by the end of the day, you barely have any downtime. Forget exercising—you don’t have time to go to the gym and work out for an hour. There’s just not enough time in the day.

But what if you didn’t have to work out for an entire hour? What if you only needed, say, five minutes?

New Study Finds That Running Five Minutes a Day Has Long-Lasting Benefits

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, five minutes of intense exercise a day is all you need. It may sound far-fetched, but it’s true. The study found that running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly increase your lifespan and reduce your risk for certain diseases—especially heart disease.

But how did the researchers figure that out? How do they know five minutes a day is all you need? Can such a short amount of time really be that beneficial?

In short—yes. To arrive at that conclusion, the researchers studied the medical records of more than 55,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 100. These records were collected from 1974 to 2002, detailing everything from a person’s medical history to their exercise routine.

In particular, this group of people was asked to provide information on their running habits, including how long, how fast and how often they ran—if at all. The participants were then placed into six groups, ranging from nonrunners to avid runners. In total, the study found that 24 percent of the people identified themselves as runners—although their speed, distance, frequency and weekly running time varied greatly.

Then, the researchers looked at the death records for this same group of people. During the time period that the records were collected, almost 3,500 had died—and many of them had died from heart disease.

But what the researchers found next was even more telling. All groups of runners—no matter how fast or how long they ran—had a lower risk of dying prematurely. In fact, the runners’ risk of dying from any cause was 30 percent lower than the nonrunners’ risk. Not only that, but the nonrunners had a 45 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than the runners did. Even those who smoked or were overweight were more likely to live longer if they ran.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that these benefits were essentially the same, regardless of how much or how little people ran. Those who ran for 30 or 60 minutes a day saw about the same increase in lifespan than those who ran for just five or 10 minutes a day. So, no matter how busy your schedule might be, a quick 10-minute run around your neighborhood every day can have incredible benefits.

Is Running the Only Type of Exercise That Offers These Benefits?

So, you might be wondering, “Why running? Is there something special about running, as opposed to other types of exercise?” Well, not necessarily. Multiple studies have shown that exercise in general can improve blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and improve cholesterol levels—all risk factors for heart disease. However, running certainly offers a number of benefits that make it an ideal way to stay active and get fit. For example, running has been shown to prevent coronary artery disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels.

But no matter what type of exercise you do, the key is to focus on your exercise intensity level. Whether it’s running or something else, it’s important to consistently do some type of moderate or vigorous exercise—even if it’s just for five minutes—to help reduce your risk for heart disease and lengthen your lifespan.

What Else Can I Do Besides Running?

If you’ve given running a try and it just isn’t for you, that’s OK. While it’s important to choose an activity that improves your quality of life, you should also make sure that it’s one you enjoy as well. As long as your exercise routine provides sustained motion and resistance, you are doing your body—and your heart—a lot of good.

Other activities you can try instead of running include power walking, swimming, bicycling, jumping rope, gardening, cross-country skiing or pedaling a stationary bike. I also recommend finding small ways to incorporate activity into your everyday routine, especially if you sit at a desk all day. Standing, walking more and taking the stairs are just some of the ways we can stay more active in our daily lives.

To learn more about improving your heart health through exercise, visit the American Heart Association website.

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