Running and your heart: Every little bit counts

Running and your heart

These days, it can be hard to find time to exercise. In our busy lives, other things can take precedence.

There’s good news for those who are busy but want to do some exercising. According to a study released in July 2014, even minimal amounts of exercise may be enough to increase life expectancy and significantly lower the risk of heart disease.

The study, conducted at the Cooper Clinic here in Dallas, focused on running. It followed 55,000 people for 15 years and measured the frequency, duration and speed of their running. This study, along with our own work here at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has highlighted the importance of even small amounts of exercise. The researchers concluded:

  • Running 5 to 10 minutes per day can lead to a 50 percent reduction in death from heart disease and a 29 percent reduction in death from all causes.
  • Running at a slower pace (6 miles per hour – so a 10-minute mile) provided nearly the same health benefit as that received by those who ran faster.
  • Most of the health benefits from running are received from doing at least a few minutes and then it begins to level off with longer durations of exercise.

What does this mean?

First, some people think it’s pointless to exercise unless they can go for 30 minutes straight. This is not true.

Even a little bit of exercise can have a big impact. Doing something is much better than doing nothing.

Also, some people think the longer your exercise sessions, the healthier you will be. This study, however, concludes that the most health benefit comes early in the run.

While this study drew important conclusions, it was an observational study and not randomized. We don’t know for sure if the health benefit was due to the running or some other factor, such as diet or doctor visits.

When my patients who aren’t active ask me to recommend an exercise regimen, I encourage them to start with something. Regular exercise is very important, even if it’s a little bit at a time. Once you’re in a routine, you can make gradual increases in both the amount and intensity. And don’t forget – all those minutes of exercise add up and will lead to a healthier heart.

 

Comments