I know I’m always urging you take a simple evening walk. It’s a terrific, low-impact way to start an exercise regimen. And, as I’ve said numerous times, the benefits add up. But when you’re ready, it’s also a good idea to challenge yourself a bit in the exercise department. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to try jogging.
Now, before you declare yourself a “non-runner” and click “delete,” hear me out. Because a new study shows that you don’t have to start training for a marathon to get the benefits of jogging. In fact, according to this new research, even just a little jogging done at a relaxed pace goes a long way toward increasing longevity.
This study also suggests there’s a limit to the benefits of jogging. And that too much running—done more frequently, for longer periods, or at a greater intensity—was not associated with any additional mortality benefits.
Translation: you don’t have to run yourself ragged like a hamster in a wheel in order to see results. In fact, you shouldn’t run that way.
The researchers found that joggers who ran 1 to 2.4 hours per week had a whopping 71 percent lower risk of mortality than sedentary non-joggers. Even people who ran less than 1 hour per week had a 53 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who were completely sedentary.
In contrast, people who ran 2.5 to 4 hours per week or more actually didn’t have a lower risk of mortality at all compared to their sedentary peers.
The researchers concluded the optimal “dose” of jogging appears to be two to three times per week. Though even those who ran just once per week had a significantly lower risk of death compared with non-joggers. (And, again, those who jogged three or more times per week did not. So there’s no need to go overboard.)
And in terms of pace, those who jogged at a comfortable speed fared best. The fastest runners—those who kicked up their heels at more than 7 mph—fared worst.
So, all told, the lowest mortality was among light joggers. Moderate joggers had a lower mortality rate than people who were completely sedentary. But it was still significantly higher than light joggers’. And—perhaps most fascinating (especially to anyone who buys into the “more is better” mentality so common this country)—strenuous joggers had roughly the SAME mortality rate as people who don’t exercise at all!
This isn’t the first time light jogging has shown major health benefits, either. A previous study showed just 5 to 10 minutes of daily running, performed even at very slow speeds, offers significant improvements in longevity. This small amount of running was associated with a 30 percent reduction in all-cause mortality, a 45 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease, and could add as much as 3 years to your total life expectancy.
In contrast, other studies have shown a significant association between high-intensity aerobic exercise and an increased risks of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, overall mortality, etc.
So if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed just looking at the U.S. exercise guidelines (which call for 150 minutes or more per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity), let this evidence serve as a reality check. It DOESN’T take that much to make a difference.
As I’ve said many times before, a little exercise goes a long way. These studies prove, once again, that doing a little something does a world of good.
“Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2015; 65(5): 411-419