How Much Do You Have to Run to Improve Health?

The answer may surprise you.

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Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

Today, we turn to the inspiring results from a recent study published online in the This current study suggests that if more folks took up running and wouldn’t have to run far or fast, we would see substantial population health improvements.

Researchers from Australia analyzed fourteen studies (including over two hundred and thirty-two thousand subjects. They tracked their health for between 5.5 and 35 years. During the study observation period, nearly twenty-six thousand participants died. Here is what the researchers found:

It Doesn’t Take Much

So how much jogging do you need to do? Even as little as fifty minutes of running once a week at a pace slower than six miles per hour appears to be protective. The study authors offer that running is a good option for those who say they are too busy to exercise.

We do not fully understand why running is associated with a reduced risk of premature death. The current study does not establish causality, and the number of studies analyzed was small, and there was considerable variation in the study methods.

Still, the takeaway message is this: Any amount of running is better than none. The authors conclude that “increased participation in running, regardless of amount, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity.”

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Photo by Daniel Storek on Unsplash

Consistent with Prior Studies

I recall that a study from the European Society of Cardiology, published in 2012, showed that regular jogging increases men’s life expectancy by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years. Researchers from the Copenhagen City Heart study presented this data at the EuroPREvent20212 meeting.

Reviewing the evidence of whether jogging is healthy or hazardous, Peter Schnohr told attendees that the study showed that between one and two-and-a-half hours of jogging per week at a “slow or average” rate delivers optimum benefits for longevity. The ideal pace is achievable by striving to feel a little breathless.

If you jog, you may improve your oxygen uptake, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve your lipid profiles (raising HDL, or so-called “good” cholesterol, while lowering triglycerides). You may drop your blood pressure, reduce aggregation of your blood platelets, improve heart function, bone density, immune system function, reduce inflammation, lower the risk of obesity, and help with psychological well-being. And for some of us, you may even have more social interactions as you are out jogging!

There is clear and abundant evidence that higher physical activity levels — irrespective of intensity — are linked to a lower risk of early death in middle ages and older people. One illustrative piece, published in the 21 August 2019, found that being sedentary (say, sitting still for 9.5 hours or more daily) is associated with an increased risk of premature death.

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Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

So if you jog, good for you. You are dropping your risk of premature death!

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I have degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Penn. I am a radiation oncologist in the Seattle area. You may find me regularly posting at

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