You can’t run away from your problems — unless, it turns out, that problem is death.
Any amount of running is linked to a significantly lower risk of death from any cause, a new metastudy on the subject reports. If more people took up running, the authors add, we could see substantial improvements in population health and longevity.
Run, Forest, run
That physical exercise is good for you isn’t exactly news. However, the exact details on running are a bit fuzzy. The full extent of its benefits on our health is not exactly clear, even if we know that it does protect us from cardiovascular diseases, for example. It’s not clear how much a person should run to see the potential benefits, or whether running more frequently, for longer, or at a certain pace brings certain benefits over other styles of running.
In a bid to find out, the team performed a systematic review of all relevant published studies, conference presentations, doctoral theses, and dissertations. The team was on the lookout for research into the link between running, jogging, and the risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The team whittled the databases down to 14 suitable studies involving 232,149 people. The participants of the studies used were tracked for periods ranging from 5.5 years up to 35 years. The team also reports that 25,951 of the study participants died as their respective studies were ongoing. After the data was pooled together, they showed that any amount of running was associated with a 27% lower risk of death from all causes for both sexes compared to no running. Running was also associated with a 30% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 23% lower risk of death from cancer.
The team further explains that even casual running — for example once per week or less, lasting less than 50 minutes each time, even at speeds under 6 mi (8 km) an hour — was still associated with significant health benefits and longevity. That’s 25 minutes less than the recommended weekly amount of vigorous exercise.
All in all, this suggests running is a very good option for people whose main obstacle to exercising is a lack of time. On the flip side, however, the team reports that more running (above the threshold mentioned above) didn’t lead to greater reductions in the risk of death from any cause.
Please keep in mind that this is an observational study — it can find a link between two factors, but it cannot establish any cause-effect relationships between them. More plainly, while the study finds that people who run have better odds of not dying, it can’t say whether running is the cause and ‘not dying’ the effect. It may simply be that people who engage in running are more health-conscious overall, which makes them less likely to die from any cause. Alternatively, it can be that people who run tend to be more self-conscious overall, taking better care of themselves, which makes them less likely to die from any cause. Still, the team says that even a little running is better than no running.
“Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity,” the study concludes
The paper “Systematic review: Is running associated with a lower risk of all-cause cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysis” has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.