The news: So much for needing 30 minutes of exercise a day. As it turns out, hitting the road for as few as five minutes slashes your chances of dying from heart disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Together, the self-identified runners in a group of more than 55,000 people added about three years to their lives. Even those who committed just 5-10 minutes of their days to jogging (yes, jogging) saw the same benefits as those who sprinted.
Hate running? No problem: You don't have to take up sprinting to see the benefits of intense exercise. Spinning or any other type of cardio should work just as well, says the Pennington Institute's Timothy Church, who co-authored the study. And you don't necessarily have to run every day, so long as you put in around an hour each week. So a 5-minute jog to the office on Monday, a 10-minute run after work and a 40-minute weekend run would be plenty to do the trick.
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The details: For their study, researchers looked at the medical records of more than 55,000 healthy men and women of all ages. About a quarter of them had self-identified as runners (although let's just say not all of them were gold-medal marathoners). Over a period of about 15 years, close to 3,500 died, many of heart disease. The runners, however, fared far better than those who didn't hit the road. Not only was their risk of dying from any cause 30% lower, their risk of dying from heart disease was reduced by 45%.
This is huge. Heart disease is America's single leading cause of death, claiming about 600,000 lives each year. That means that the risk of dying from heart disease in the U.S. is very high — three out of five American men without the disease at age 45 will develop the condition at some point in their lives. The prospect of reducing that risk is a very big deal.
There's another component to the problem, of course: Close to a quarter of those who die from heart disease are obese. Since the major driver of obesity in America may not be how much we're eating but how little we're exercising, this finding could give many of us the hope we need to start.