By Sean Kinney
With so many options for exercise, it can be tough to choose one that will fit into your schedule and provide the maximum health benefits. Taking up running might be one of your best bets.
Running in your free time may reduce the risk of death in general and cut down on the risk of death from cardiovascular complications like heart disease and stroke, new research suggests.
Researchers from the University of Iowa found that, regardless of how far, fast or often they ran, runners were significantly less likely than others to die from any cause.
The research was conducted by Duck-chul Lee, PhD, assistant professor in the Iowa State University Kinesiology Department in Ames, and colleagues.
Dr. Lee and team set out to analyze the link between running, death in general and death specifically from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers studied 55,137 adults between ages 18 and 100 during a 15-year period. Participants answered questions about running habits.
During the 15-year study period, 3,413 participants died. Of those, 1,217 of the deaths were linked to cardiovascular disease. In that group, 24 percent reported running as part of their exercise.
Runners had a 30 percent lower risk of death from death by any cause, according to the study, and a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
Dr. Lee and associates also found that runners lived an average of three years longer than non-runners.
The results were consistent regardless of personal factors like sex and age, and exercise measurements including distance, speed and frequency.
The researchers found that people who ran for six years or longer had a 29 percent lower risk of death from any cause and a 50 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
"Since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in physical activity, the study may motivate more people to start running and continue to run as an attainable health goal for mortality benefits," Dr. Lee said in a prepared statement. "Running may be a better exercise option than more moderate intensity exercises for healthy but sedentary people since it produces similar, if not greater, mortality benefits in five to 10 minutes compared to the 15 to 20 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity that many find too time consuming."
The study was published online July 28 in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Coca-Cola Company.
Study co-author Steven Blair, PED, disclosed receiving funding from Coca-Cola, Technogym, and Body Media and serving on advisory boards for Technogym, Clarity and Santech.
None of the other authors disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.