Run for your life! Can a weekly jog reduce your risk of early death?

A recent review published in the BMJ and featured on BBC Breakfast looked at the interaction between running and the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer related premature deaths. The authors combined data from fourteen studies totalling 232,149 participants with follow-ups occurring between 5.5 and 35 years. In total, 25, 951 individuals died during the follow-up period. Each of the studies included in the review measured running participation using self-report data, which does have its limitations, however this did enable the researchers to study the optimal ‘dose’ of running required to minimise health risks and reduce the likelihood of early death.

The results

Analysis of the results found running to be associated with a 27%, 30% and 23% risk reduction for all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer related deaths respectively when compared to the non-running groups.  This indicates the positive health benefits associated with going out for a jog, but just how much do we need to do to see these benefits? The smallest doses measured were no longer than 50 minutes in duration, no more than once a week in frequency and completed at a pace no faster than 6 mph in pace. Running participation at doses as low as this were found to have considerable benefit on all-cause mortality risk.

What does this mean for me?

The interesting take-home message from this is that the dose-response relationship we often talk about with regards to the benefits of doing more exercise does not necessarily apply to this argument. In fact, the authors concluded that there was no additional health benefit associated with higher doses of running in this case, which in simple terms means a single session of jogging a week could slash your risk of an early death by up to 30%.

With the current ‘inactivity epidemic’ in the UK, these results add to the growing base of evidence that even a small amount of activity is better than no activity at all. Many individuals are aware of the health benefits associated with physical activity, but point to a lack of time as one of the biggest barriers preventing them from participating. Changing habits can be particularly challenging if you are attempting to make big changes in a short space of time. Many will feel like they need to be exercising on most days to feel any benefit, so rather than doing a little, they may simply not bother at all. Hopefully this research has helped to show that even the smallest of commitments can carry great health benefits, so even a single run a week is well worth it and is a great place to start.

How does this relate to our mission at KiActiv®?

At KiActiv® we recognise that forms of structured activity such as a weekly run play a key part in an individual’s overall physical activity picture. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle and does not account for any of the movement we accumulate through carrying out normal daily tasks. The activity we do in a ‘free-living’ environment can be just as important for health, so optimising this should also be a focus. So, whilst the article is positive in the sense that it makes the benefits of activity seem accessible to more people, we believe we can go further by looking at physical activity as multi-dimensional in nature, accounting for various types of activity and acknowledging their equal importance for health.