WASHINGTON, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Even running for only a few minutes a day can significantly reduce a person's risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a new U.S. study said Monday.
"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," said lead author Duck-chul Lee, assistant professor of the Iowa State University.
In the new study, researchers studied 55,137 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a 15-year period to determine whether there is a relationship between running and longevity.
In the study period, 3,413 participants died, including 1,217 whose deaths were related to cardiovascular disease. In this population, 24 percent of the participants reported running as part of their leisure-time exercise.
The study showed that participants who ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than 6 miles (about 9.6 kilometers), slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one to two times per week had a lower risk of dying compared to those who did not run.
The researchers also found that runners who ran less than an hour per week have the same mortality benefits compared to runners who ran more than three hours per week. Thus, it is possible that the more may not be the better as far as running and longevity as concerned.
The researchers also looked at running behavior patterns and found that those who persistently ran over a period of six years on average had the most significant benefits, with a 29 percent lower risk of death for any reason and 50 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
On average, runners lived three years longer compared to non- runners.
"Promoting running is as important as preventing smoking, obesity or hypertension," the researchers said in a statement. " The benefits were the same no matter how long, far, frequently or fast participants reported running. Benefits were also the same regardless of sex, age, body mass index, health conditions, smoking status or alcohol use."
The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.