The simplest way to exercise is to lace up some running shoes and head out the door. You don’t need to buy a gym membership. You don’t need to drive a car. You don’t need fancy equipment or a partner. And a new study shows you don’t even need to run for very long to get the benefits.
I’ve been a runner for 35 years. I was a jock as a teenager, but as an adult I chose a sport where being tall and athletic is irrelevant. I ran in some marathons and 10-milers in my early 40s, but now I run more slowly and mindfully. I get out most days, running between 20 and 25 miles a week, at a pace slightly over 10 minutes a mile.
Curiously, I often run more in January and February. That’s because when it’s very cold or there’s snow or ice afoot, I run indoors on a track at the University of Massachusetts, 1.5 miles from my house. I run there while wearing warm clothes, take most of them off when I arrive at the track, then put them back on to run home. I tend to run longer because it seems pointless to do all this for a short run.
I sometimes listen to National Public Radio while I run, but often I treat running as a form of meditation, or I think about some challenging issue in my life. Running improves the quality of my emotional and mental life, partly by increasing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, and helps keep my weight down. Now there’s evidence that running can ease depression and decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
On average, running can add three years to your life, four if you’re a smoker. A recent study of 55,000 people showed that runners had a 30 percent lower risk of dying over a 15-year period and a 45 percent lower incidence of dying from heart disease, according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. And here’s the clincher: the study found that it didn’t matter how long or how fast you run, and even running five to 10 minutes a day significantly lowered the risk of dying prematurely.
“There’s not necessarily something magical about running,” Dr. Timothy Church, co-author of the study, told the New York Times. “It just happens to be the most convenient way for most people to exercise intensely.”‘ Read the story here.
Bicycling and walking are also good forms of exercise that are as convenient as running, but they require spending more time to get the same benefit. For me, running fits a lifestyle of simple living because it’s so basic, inexpensive and efficient.