Photography by Stockbyte for Getty Images
Photography by Stockbyte for Getty Images

A new study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology is getting a lot of attention because of its surprise finding that as little as seven minutes of running a day seems to protect people from dying as a result of cardiovascular disease and to lengthen life in general.

The 15-year study reviewed data on the health habits of more than 55,000 adults ranging in age from 18 to 100. It found that runners of all sorts—recreational as well as serious—were 45% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The study determined that runners lived an average of three years longer than non-runners. The benefits held true even when other factors that normally impact health were controlled, such as age, weight and smoking, and they held true for those out there jogging only 51 minutes a week.

A study of breast cancer survivors published in February by the International Journal of Cancer also found running to be highly beneficial, specifically when compared with walking. In a City of Hope (COH) report on the study, “researchers found the risk for breast cancer mortality decreased an average of 24 percent for every mile of brisk walking or for every two-thirds of a mile of running.”

The COH report quoted the study’s lead author, Paul William of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: “If I were a breast cancer survivor, I would certainly consider running or some other vigorous exercise over walking, and I wouldn’t just be doing the minimum, with the consequences and potential benefit being so great.”

Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., director of the Division of Cancer Etiology at City of Hope, emphasizes that the key is to participate in some vigorous activity.

“I would say it's better to run than to walk because you spend more energy,” Bernstein says. “But you can only do what’s good for you. If you walk, push yourself so you’re out of breath.”