If you’ve ever felt ashamed of your paltry morning mile after seeing your friend’s post-marathon selfie or 10-mile running pace on Instagram, take heart — you’re still doing your body a favor.
Turns out, you don’t need to log numerous miles or spend over an hour on the treadmill every week to reap the health benefits of running. Ahead, discover the distance you actually need to run to witness an improvement in your health.
How Far You Need to Run to Enhance Your Health
Reminder: Running is connected with a plethora of health advantages. Running has been correlated with a decreased prevalence of hypertension, type II diabetes, and high cholesterol, as per a 2015 meta-analysis in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. It’s also been found to decrease the risk of respiratory disease, and with each run completed, the risk of stroke may decline by 11 percent in women, as stated by the review. Additionally, one research analyzed suggested that jogging 1 to 2.4 hours a week was linked to a 71 percent decrease in the risk of dying from any cause, while other research on 55,000 individuals discovered that jogging may prolong your life by around three years.
Despite what influencers on the internet may have you believe, you don’t need to dedicate hours to running every week to attain some of those perks. In fact, running just 20 minutes at a moderate exertion level five times a week — or at a vigorous exertion level three times a week — can significantly enhance your health, says Joshua Funderburg, an NASM-certified personal trainer, Precision Run running coach, and Equinox group fitness manager. “A couple of miles is all you need to start with to see results,” he adds.
And research supports this: Running just six miles a week (or for about 51 minutes total, just one to two times a week) delivers nearly the same risk reduction for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality that comes with longer sessions, according to the Mayo Clinic Proceedings review. In fact, the runners who had lower mileages experienced greater benefit in terms of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality than the individuals who ran more than 20 miles (or for more than 176 minutes total, at least six times a week), lead author Chip Lavie, M.D., said in a video released with the study.
The Hazards of Running Excessively
That’s a considerable amount of profit for a relatively small investment. And all of those health advantages of running come with minimal expenses that individuals frequently link to the activity. Contrary to prevailing belief, running did not seem to harm bones or joints and actually decreased the likelihood of osteoarthritis and hip replacement surgery, Lavie added in the video.
The Dangers of Running Excessively
While running more than 20 miles a week does enhance cardiovascular fitness, it carries a few possible hazards, according to the Mayo Clinic study. People who participate in marathons may be at risk of “cardiotoxicity,” also known as cardio-induced heart damage. Marathon running, specifically, has been linked to increases in the size and expansion of heart chambers, both of which may diminish heart functionality, as well as an escalation in certain brain proteins that serve as indicators of heart failure, according to the researchers. (Nevertheless, these irregularities seem to resolve within one to three days after the marathon, as stated in the study.)
Still, “this definitely indicates that more is not superior,” Lavie mentioned in the video, adding that the possibility of severe consequences is slight but still worth discussing with your doctor if you’re partaking in, let’s say, a marathon. “Clearly, if one is exercising at an intense level, it’s not for the sake of health since the maximum health benefits occur at very low dosages,” he stated.
Apart from that, running daily without allowing your body enough time to recuperate can lead to overuse injuries and muscle tears, just as rapidly increasing your training volume can, says Funderburg. “As a general rule, it’s highly recommended to have one to two days of recovery per week,” he suggests. “[And] don’t increase your weekly volume of running by more than 10 percent from the previous week. This will help prevent common issues like shin splints and stress fractures.”
The Key Takeaway
Even covering just a few miles a week can benefit your health, according to research and experts. And if the data have convinced you to engage in cardiovascular activity for the first time, remember to start gradually, running short distances at a time and assessing how you’re feeling, suggests Funderburg. “Don’t hesitate to start with a combination of running and walking,” he adds. “If you’ve never run before, then incorporating walking into your run is an excellent way to begin.”
The main message to bear in mind? Don’t feel discouraged if you can “only” run a mile or if you’re “just” a jogger; every step you take is contributing positively to your body.
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