A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has shown that any amount of running is associated with a lower risk of death from any cause as well as a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The review included 14 studies with over 230,000 participants. All of the studies examined the relationship between running and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, or any cause. In the studies, participants were followed for a range of 5.5 to 35 years.
Overall, participation in any amount of running was associated with a 30% lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, a 23% lower risk of death due to cancer, and a 27% lower risk of death due to any cause. Relatively small amounts of running, including once a week or less for less than 50 minutes, were still associated with substantial health and longevity benefits. Greater amounts of running were not associated with greater health benefits in this analysis, but the results were somewhat inconclusive and more research is needed.
The results of this study suggest that larger rates of participation in running could lead to significant health and longevity benefits, especially at the population level. The results are also promising for people who feel that they don’t have enough time to exercise — even less than one hour of running per week seems to lower the risk of death due to cancer, cardiovascular disease, or any cause. The American Heart Association lists exercise as an essential factor in improving and maintaining heart health, and this study confirms the importance of regular exercise for the heart.