Exercise provides innumerable health benefits, all of which coalesce to increase your life expectancy by protecting against chronic health complications.
According to Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can offer defence against a number of potentially life-threatening mechanisms, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Emerging evidence also suggests it may be a potent weapon in the fight against cancer.
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Despite the palpable health benefits, knowing what exercise to do and how frequently to do it can seem overwhelming if you are a beginner.
A recent study published in the British Journal of Medicine suggests that the life-extending benefits of exercise can be achieved without getting bogged down in technical details, however.
The results of a pooled analysis found that running, a low-maintenance exercise that can be easily incorporated into your day, significantly lowered risk of death from any cause.
To gather their findings, researchers analysed swathes of data from relevant published research, conference presentations, and doctoral theses and dissertations in a broad range of academic databases.
They looked for studies on the association between running/jogging and the risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
When the study data were pooled, any amount of running was associated with a 27 percent lower risk of death from all causes for both sexes, compared with no running.
And it was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 23 percent lower risk of death from cancer.
Crucially, even in small doses running had an outsized effect, for example, once weekly or less, lasting less than 50 minutes each time, and at a speed below six miles (8 km) an hour, still seemed to be associated with significant health/longevity benefits.
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This suggests that running for 25 minutes less than the recommended weekly duration of vigorous physical activity could reduce the risk of death.
Increasing the frequency and duration of running wasn’t associated with a further lowering of the risk of death from any cause, however, the analysis showed.
In their concluding remarks, the researchers said: “Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity.”
Key tips if you are starting out
If you have not been active for a while, you may want to ease into running, gradually increasing your fitness levels by walking first, says the NHS.
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Once you develop more confidence, it is advisable to get a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type may help improve comfort, explains the health site.
“There are many types of trainers on the market, so get advice from a specialist running retailer, who’ll assess your foot and find the right shoe for you,” explains the health body.
To get into a running routine, it is also wise to plan your runs and work out when and where you’re going to run and put it in your diary.
The NHS also recommends increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings to avoid injury and keep the experience enjoyable if you are starting out.
“Start each run with a gentle warm-up of at least five minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs,” advises the health body.
As the health site points out, regular running for beginners means getting out at least twice a week.
Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus, says the health body.
“It’s better to run twice a week, every week, than to run six times one week and then do no running for the next three weeks,” it adds.
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