Running Just 10 Minutes a Day Can Reduce Your Risk of Early Death by 27 Percent

With a view like this one in Vancouver, running seems easier. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Almost every morning that it isn't a blizzard, I try and get out and run for at least half an hour, longer on weekends. I've often joked that I'm trying to outrun old age. It turns out that it's not a joke at all; a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that running lowers your risk of early death from all causes by 27 percent.

And while I'm busy grinding away all these hours, it turns out that how much you run doesn't make a whole lot of difference; 50 minutes a week is enough. The study concludes:

Running participation is associated with a significantly lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, compared with no running. Any amount of running, even just once a week, is better than no running, while higher doses of running may not necessarily be associated with greater mortality benefits. Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity.

Jordan Smith of Runner's World writes:

And it turns out, more might not necessarily be better. In fact, running even just once a week, for less than 50 minutes a week, or at a speed below 6 miles per hour (a 10-minute mile) still offered health benefits comparable to those associated with higher "doses" of running, Željko Pedišić, Ph.D., an associate‌‌ ‌‌professor‌ ‌at the ‌Institute‌ ‌for‌ ‌Health‌ ‌and‌ ‌Sport at Victoria‌ ‌University in ‌Melbourne,‌ Australia‌, told Runner’s World.

Running can be hard when you're older, and a lot of people think they can't do it. One running expert, Christina Macdonald, the author of "Run Yourself Fit," says our bodies can cope. She's quoted in the Express:

"I hear from many older people that they are worried about running as they think it will be bad for ageing joints. Contrary to popular belief, the weightbearing nature of running means bones will strengthen through loading. Some loading is good for the joints and can improve bone health but it’s important not to overdo the volume. For a new runner over the age of 40 I would recommend two to three short runs a week, not on consecutive days. This should give the body time to adjust to the high-impact activity.
Look how far I ran
Look how far I ran! But ignore how long I took; I stopped in the middle. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

This is true, it does take time to adjust. After spending the summer in my rowing shell, I started running in September and I thought my hip was shot, and then my knee. I built it up every week. Yesterday, I did a serious run, and never felt a thing.

It's also true that it's important to know how to run properly. A few years ago I was having a lot of trouble with my knee, and thought my running days were over. I went to The Runner's Academy in Toronto, where physiotherapist Lindsay completely changed the way I run, from longer strides to much shorter ones that didn't have me putting my foot way forward. I even got to train on a machine named Alter. She also suggested that the impact on my joints was proportional to the weight applied to them, and I've been working on reducing that, too.

An Alter on the Alter
An Alter on the Alter. (Photo: Lindsay Scott)

But even if you can't run, another study found that almost any exercise of any kind makes a big difference. It has a long title, but a short conclusion, as interpreted by Medical Express: "People who walked or gardened 10 minutes to an hour each week had an 18-percent lower risk of death from any cause compared to full-on couch potatoes." So 2.5 to five hours weekly resulted in a 31 percent reduction in risk. The more the merrier, but every little bit helps.

Assuming causality of the associations we observed, both low and high levels of physical activity (PA) have beneficial effects on all-cause and cause-specific mortality risk. Importantly, vigorous PA has added benefits for reducing mortality compared with moderate PA. Promoting PA of any intensity and amount is an important approach to reducing mortality risk in the general population.

So even if you can't get out there and run, get out there and walk. Get out there and garden. Get out there and do anything; studies show that it makes a difference. It certainly has for me.