Even a short run could reduce risk of death by 27 percent

A new study has shown that even short runs regularly could help lower the risk of death due to any cause. This came from pooled data from a large number of participants. The study results titled, “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,” was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Image Credit: Liderina / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Liderina / Shutterstock

According to the team of researchers the association between running and risk of death is unclear and they looked at available evidence from published research papers, theses and dissertations of doctoral candidates, conference presentations and other databases. They attempted to see if running could stave off the risk of getting heart disease and cancer among other diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure etc. They said that people need not run fast or far in order to gain health benefits, as is clear from their study.

From all the gathered evidence the team looked at 14 suitable research studies that included a total of 232,149 individuals who were followed with health checkups for 5.5 to 35 years. There were a total of 25,951 deaths during this period of time which was around 11 percent of the study population.

Results revealed that running lowered the risk of deaths by 27 percent from all causes and the results were similar among both men and women. This was comparable with people who did not run at all. The risk of dying due to cardiovascular diseases fell by 30 percent and risk of deaths due to cancers fell by 23 percent among those who ran when compared to those who did not run.

What was notable in the study results was the fact that the amount of running did not influence the health benefits. This meant that the benefits were not “dose” specific. Persons running once a week or less, with each session less than or equal to 50 minutes at speeds below 8 km per hour or 6 miles an hour also reaped health benefits wrote the researchers. They also said that their results revealed that increasing the running time or speed did not significantly raise the health benefits among the participants. They added that this duration was 25 minutes less than the recommended amount of vigorous physical activity and since it was beneficial to health, people short on time could adopt running as an alternative physical activity of choice each week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. They wrote that their results “may be encouraging for people who struggle to find the time to exercise.” They surmised that, “A meta-regression analysis showed no significant dose–response trends for weekly frequency, weekly duration, pace and the total volume of running.”

Study author Dr Željko Pedišić, Associate Professor from Victoria University in Australia, in a statement explained, “Any running is probably good for your health and you can achieve those benefits by running even just once a week or running 50 minutes a week, but that shouldn’t discourage those who run more than that amount, who maybe enjoy running three times a week or six times a week.”

At the end of the study the team warned that this study was an observational study and could not establish the cause-effect relationship between running and deaths due to heart disease and cancers. They also added that not all of the studies they looked at were conducted in the same manner and there were variations. This made the uniformity of the results and conclusions from the results a question, they concluded.

Nevertheless the team said that preliminary results from this meta-analysis should be paid heed to and some amount of running could be incorporated into the weekly activity routine. Associate Professor Pedišić warned that running was not a “silver bullet” to health and diet and other healthy lifestyle choices such as not smoking and cutting down on alcohol consumption should accompany physical activity.

Authors of the study wrote in conclusion, “Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity. Any amount of running, even just once a week, is better than no running, but higher doses of running may not necessarily be associated with greater mortality benefits.”

Journal reference:

Pedisic Z, Shrestha N, Kovalchik S, et alIs running associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysisBritish Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 04 November 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100493, https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2019/09/25/bjsports-2018-100493

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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