Even a 5-minute run can help prevent heart disease
July 28th, 2014
03:31 PM ET

Even a 5-minute run can help prevent heart disease

Good news for runners: A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests running, even for a few minutes a day, can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease - whether you plod along or go at race speed.

Researchers studied more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a 15-year period, looking at their overall health, whether they ran and how long they lived.

Compared to nonrunners, those who ran had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes and a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, investigators found. In fact, runners on average lived three years longer than those who did not hit the pavement. When data was broken down by age, sex, body mass index, and smoking and alcohol use, the benefits were still the same.

“That’s important to note,” said Dr. Warren Levy, a cardiologist and chief medical officer of Virginia Heart in northern Virginia. “Even with all the negative factors, such as obesity, smoking and diabetes, those who were, let’s say, obese and ran had a less likely chance of dying from heart problems than those obese people who didn’t run. Same with smokers, diabetics, etc. ”

The speed and frequency of a person's running routine did not make a huge difference either. The data showed novice runners who ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than 6 miles, slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one or two times per week still had a lower risk of dying than those who did not put on running shoes.

D.C. Lee, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Iowa State University's kinesiology department in Ames, Iowa, said the researchers found runners who ran less than an hour per week have the “same mortality benefits compared to runners who ran more than three hours per week.” So more may not be better.

“Its been shown that after a certain amount of running over a certain period of time, the benefits seem to wane,” said Levy. “We aren’t quite sure why.”

However, researchers did discover that consistency was key. They found participants who ran consistently over a period of six years or more gained the most benefits, with a 29% lower risk of death for any reason and 50% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

There have been many studies that have shown the benefits of exercise on the heart. But this study is one of the largest to pinpoint the positive effects of running, especially for nonmarathoners or nontriathletes.

"Since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in physical activity, the study may motivate more people to start running and continue to run as an attainable health goal for mortality benefits," Lee said.

Activities like running can lower your blood pressure and decrease the production of glucose, which cuts your risk of developing diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Running also seems to protect the innermost lining of the arteries, keeping the walls and cells intact, which cuts the risk of blockages or clots that can cause strokes or heart attacks.

Levy, a runner himself, said people considering taking up running programs should talk to their doctors first, especially if they have chronic conditions.

“A lot of weekend warriors just go out without preparing for their run. It’s the runner who takes it gradually and trains correctly, even for a run around the block, who's the one who avoids injuries and other complications."

soundoff (1,428 Responses)
  1. RichardJohn

    “A lot of weekend warriors just go out without preparing for their run. It’s the runner who takes it gradually and trains correctly, even for a run around the block, who's the one who avoids injuries and other complications."

    Great article on "Running" and the effects it can have on heart disease! Thanks for sharing CNN !


    July 28, 2014 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. James Flowers

    Define "running". I have seen many things that say a 15 min/Mile pace is the best thing for you. Hard enough to get your heart going and burn calories while not impacting knees/hips/feet as hard. They say "plod along" ios good enough, but don't give any real parameters.

    July 28, 2014 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      I've walked about 15 of those miles over the last few days alone. I can run a bit but I was born to walk – and walk fast. I don't really care to run. When I get in my walking groove I can walk and walk for miles at a time. Helps me stay in shape clears my mind.

      July 28, 2014 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      The data showed novice runners who ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than 6 miles, slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one or two times per week still had a lower risk of dying than those who did not put on running shoes.
      Those arent enough parameters for you? Do you want them to tell you how many steps to take, hold your hand while you do it?

      July 29, 2014 at 00:42 | Report abuse |
    • lovegurutoo

      Dana, more handholding please.

      July 29, 2014 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • Carole Corns

      I agree with James and Joe. I walked 8 miles the other day and I felt terrific, except that I didn't have the proper footwear and got a bit of a chafing. Running 8 miles would have wreaked havoc on my knees and ankles.

      July 30, 2014 at 10:54 | Report abuse |
    • Nicholas K

      It says at the end of the article to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have chronic condition.

      September 25, 2014 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
  3. Fill

    Another site noted that part of the demographic in the study that didn't run, didn't because they were too unhealthy to. So that's a bit like saying you are more likely to be unhealthy if you in the demographic containing the most unhealthy people. I don't doubt that if more of those people who don't run could be healthier if they got in a bit of running, but I think the study needs to remove the demographic of those who can't run to begin with to have meaningful statistics.

    July 28, 2014 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alli

      I was thinking the same thing. Who exactly were in the other group? Did they do any exercising? Are they comparing runners to weight trainers or biking people? Or are they comparing runners with people who do no kind of exercise at all?

      August 29, 2014 at 19:26 | Report abuse |
  4. BinWasilla

    On CNN within the last few weeks there was a story about how sitting for 2 hours totally undoes any good a 20 minute workout may have.

    July 28, 2014 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      You do what you can. Every hour of exercise adds a bit to your lifespan. Obviously many of us have 'sitting' jobs so you get up and move throughout the day. I walked a mile this morning. I walked 3 miles after work. And I just walked another mile before bed. That's exercise spread throughout the day. Helps burn the calories and helps me keep moving between all those 'sitting down' periods.

      July 28, 2014 at 23:18 | Report abuse |
    • portlandtony

      That goes to show ya:: Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.......Your body needs rest to rebuild the "stress" placed upon it by an extreme workout. However, 20 minutes is not usually considered an "extreme" workout! But consider the baseball player or even the offensive football player whose actual physical exertion is limited to approximately 20 minutes when most of the game is spent standing or sitting on a bench!

      August 11, 2014 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
  5. Blueseasons

    3 years? That's all? I have been running for over 30 years. Sometimes over 1000 miles a year (Iam 64) and all I get out of it is a stinking 3 years longer to live?

    July 28, 2014 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      I think you and I both know that you're probably adding a lot more to your natural lifespan than that.... just by staying fit.

      July 28, 2014 at 23:19 | Report abuse |
    • lovegurutoo

      Blue, it's 3 years per mile. At this rate, you won't die.

      July 29, 2014 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Yeah...that was my thought too....by the end of my life, I will have spent MUCH more time running than the 3 years I gain. Luckily, my running path is beautiful, I feel great after the run and the fitness I gain makes everything else in my life easier and more fun. (or maybe I'm just happy the rest of the time not to be running)

      September 15, 2014 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
  6. SixDegrees

    "When data was broken down by age, sex, body mass index, and smoking and alcohol use, the benefits were still the same."

    Which strongly implies that running isn't the underlying cause, but more likely that a general, overall interest in health is the factor mitigating risk here.

    July 29, 2014 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Katie

    Running is so over rated. Walking is just as good and much easier on the knees, hips, and back. Not everyone has the physique of a runner and running won't produce one. I know many people whose running gave them pain and medical problems, and it wasn't because they were unprepared runners – they warmed up, they stretched, they were consistent runners. Exercise shouldn't hurt.

    July 29, 2014 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lovegurutoo

      Katie, spirited dancing works as well.

      July 29, 2014 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Walking is great. However, it is a myth that running is bad for your knees, hips, etc. Studies have also shown that runners have better, stronger knees, hips, and joints.

      July 29, 2014 at 19:45 | Report abuse |
  8. GymRat

    I LOVE to workout and go to the gym but I HATE running. I have tried multiple times over the years to get into running. Many of my marathon-running friends tell me that once I find my groove, it will feel good and come natural. I have yet to find my groove. However, I train often and I train hard, just not at running. I think the overall emphasis should be on being active period. Not so focused on running.

    There's a old joke: How can you tell someone has run a marathon? They will tell you. Often.

    July 29, 2014 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TS

      How can you spot a gym rat? Just look for the nearest mirror!

      July 29, 2014 at 08:28 | Report abuse |
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      July 30, 2014 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
    • runner

      I love the gym, too. Daily and lots of work!
      But with running...I feel like I need that longer cardio to balance out the strength (and short cardio bursts from classes).
      It's really a good addition. I guess you don't need to love it, but pencil it into your calendar. Try to just do it daily.
      I didn't used to like group classes, and now I LOVE them. I got used to them and ended up really liking it. It's like music, you have to listen to it over and over, and you start to love it. Hope that helps!

      July 30, 2014 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
  9. Raul

    Still can't find where the "5" minutes comes from.

    July 29, 2014 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Colin

    Just take "running" as an example, 'cause that's the only activity in this particular study. Figure it out: get pretty darn active for a little bit every day, and do that by doing something that turns you on! Swimming, jumping jacks/rope, acrobatic sex, chasing the neighbors' kids off your lawn (kidding of course), or one of those "all in one" exercise systems/machines. All the same. Can't study everything, Just focus on "five minutes of an expression session" – expressing YOURself, not mass media's idea of a sport. So many fun things to do, but very gradually at first as I must (66 y.o. ocean swimmer).

    July 29, 2014 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ContinuousFraudAndDeception

    "Even a 5-minute run can help prevent heart disease" is demonstrably false. Genetics has, for the most part, predetermined each individual human being's quality of 'health'... and your emotional state is also apparently important to physical heart health.

    Jim Fix died of a heart attack; he was a runner and may likely be described as 'healthy', or the paragon of running is good for your heart!

    July 29, 2014 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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    In other news, the sky is blue and the pope is catholic.

    July 29, 2014 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jennytell Ya

    Monkeys that are kept as pets will eventually turn on their captors and rip off their genitals. Run away from that!!

    July 29, 2014 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ermentrude

    What if you have plantar fasciitis? Running is not the challenge, the pain when the foot meets the pavement is the challenge.

    July 29, 2014 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kim

      Roll your foot around on a golf ball EVERY night and a few times during the day. Stretch your calves, skins and ankles every day. Keep up the stretching and the golf ball and it will go away. (mine took 3 months). PT is the secret to all things 🙂

      September 15, 2014 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
  15. A scientist

    Interesting study, but I would be curious how (or if) they separated correlation from causation. Are people healthy because they run, or are people who are already healthy more likely to be able to run?

    I would imagine that people who are healthy are more predisposed to run; there are certainly any number of health conditions that both shorten life expectancy and prevent people from being able to run.

    July 29, 2014 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Keith

    You nay-sayers are right. What on earth am I thinking! I need to stop running right away and get my ass onto a couch.
    Thanks for helping me see the errors of my ways.

    July 30, 2014 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. runner

    Hmmm....my knees were hurting so I cut down on running. I've been running since a teen (nothing too strenuous, just 2 miles a few times a week, not very fast).

    Not overweight, and I do a lot of exercise classes during the week.
    I think I've built up enough muscle now to try running again and hopefully be stronger and more balanced as far as the knees go. I know they say it's just a myth that runner's knees end up hurting, but mine did! Not what I wanted to happen.

    July 30, 2014 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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  19. Annlindemann

    You just got to keep moving!

    August 1, 2014 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. tejula

    Running is great. Not only it will help prevent heart disease, it also lowers blood pressure as heart tends to become stronger if you train it (and running is a very good training).
    I run every second day if possible. My resting heart rate dropped from 60+ to a steady 55 when lying in bed. It sure is a sign of better overall shape. I love running. Tejula

    August 5, 2014 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Kat

    Running can really help our body function more properly. The lungs are constantly pumping blood into the heart and running really gets that process going. It gives the respitory system more strength therefore we can breath and run and won't get tired as much as we do when we began. As said in the article "Activities like running can lower your blood pressure and decrease the production of glucose, which cuts your risk of developing diabetes" and "running, even for a few minutes a day, can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease – whether you plod along or go at race speed.". People have a greater chance of living longer, a better active life, and a healther life when they constantly keep there heart and lungs pumping and working hard as done when running or fast walking.

    August 12, 2014 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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  23. brittany

    "The data showed novice runners who ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than 6 miles, slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one or two times per week still had a lower risk of dying than those who did not put on running shoes."

    Lol. Everyone has a high risk of dying. About 100% of us are going to die. They should probably be a bit more specific with that lower risk of dying sentence.

    August 19, 2014 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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    There are numbers of posts, articles and even infomercial that call LDL cholesterol as "bad cholesterol". It scares people, without understanding how it affects over all heart health. I would hope that all recent studies will be compiled to arrive at a conclusion to either confirm or correct the previous recommendation of such conference.

    Our cardiologist advise us that stress reduction, along with diet and exercise, could reduce the risk of CV disease. He also said that if it is about heart health, family history is considered to being the huge factor in CV disease. We have a history of High Blood Pressure and abnormal cholesterol level... But that didn't keep me from doing something about it – I run and walk every day, routine exercise, I've been taking Omega 3 supplements
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  32. noor

    I like the five minutes running beneits. We should at least 5 mints for ourselves.

    December 28, 2014 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sean Darcy (Dr. Sean Darcy MD)

    Running 5 minutes can be harmful for your knees as you get older especially if you run on pavement @seandarcymd

    December 31, 2014 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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