Any amount of running can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and even early death, according to an encouraging new health study. In fact, running is believed to be so good that it could lower the risk of death from all causes by a massive 27 per cent, as per a pooled analysis of available evidence published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this month.
With several city marathons just around the corner, city doctors believe that the encouraging study will only motivate people to participate in what is already a growing trend. Health enthusiast and senior consultant physician at Apollo Hospitals in Hyderguda, Dr Syamala Aiyangar, who regularly participates in marathons, explains why running is one of the best exercises one can do.
“It has been found to reduce weight, improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of deaths from strokes and heart attacks. It is also the best anti-depressant and stress buster,” she says and adds, “It is the easiest exercise to pursue as no particular infrastructure is required, neither is travelling and money involved. All one needs is a good pair of running shoes and proper clothing.”
Dr Aiyangar reveals that since she took up running about four years ago, it has grown even more in popularity. “A lot more people are participating in marathons each year,” she observes.
This particular study underlines the cause for running exponentially over any other previous studies chiefly because of the sheer number of cases and the extended period of time involved, explains Dr Aiyangar.
Researchers looked at 14 suitable studies that tracked the health of a staggering 232,149 people between 5.5 and 35 years before reaching a conclusion.
Interestingly, they found that running was associated with a 30 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 23 per cent lower risk of death from cancer.
Even small amounts of running — once every week or less, lasting less than 50 minutes each time and at a speed below 8 km an hour—was associated with significant health benefits. However, it also stated that increasing the “dose” did not mean better benefits.
“Increased rates of participation in running would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity. Any amount of running, even just once a week, is better than no running,” says the study.
Dr Aiyangar, who participated in the Airtel Hyderabad Marathon this year, adds, “The scientific premise is correct but a pitfall of the study is that it was based on the West so we cannot extrapolate it to the Indian population and across our varying socio-economic backgrounds. Our climate, diet and genes are different.”
Nonetheless, the study encourages people to exercise to improve our overall health, “which is always a good thing. I would encourage more people to take up the simple sport,” says Dr Aiyangar.