According to questionnaires administered by the World Health Organization, about 1.5 billion people or 31 percent of the world s population is sedentary, meaning they do not get the 150 minutes of walking or other moderate activity each week. And more than 80 percent of teenagers do not get the recommended amount of activity. A new study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University in Ames found that substantial health benefits can be gained from just five to ten minutes of running once or twice a week.
Researchers led by Dr. Duck-chel Lee looked at data from about 55,000 individuals ages 18 to 100, with an average age of 44, from the prospective, observational Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. About 24 percent of those individuals reported running at some point during the three months prior to the baseline survey and one-third of those had responded to follow-up questionnaires. Looking at these individuals over a period of fifteen years, researchers found that running five to ten minutes once or twice a week was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 45 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. The associations were seen at the lowest weekly distances, frequencies, and speeds and significant differences were not seen in terms of all cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality from the less than 60 minutes per week quintile to the 180 minutes or more per week quintile.
Researchers point out several limitations of the study including that the study population was mostly white, upper to upper-middle class meaning the results may not be generalizable to the population as whole. Another limitation written about in an accompanying editorial by Dr. Chi Pang Wen of Taiwan s Institute of Population Health Sciences is that The reality is that a virtuous cycle exists for an iterative process of incremental exercise promoting incremental health, and the healthier individuals in turn being more likely to exercise, blurring the simple cause-and-effect relationship,"
But the bottom line according to the study authors is this: Some is better than none.
ACSH s Ariel Savransky agrees. In our population today, where people are largely sedentary, beginning some sort of exercise regimen may seem very overwhelming. The fact that this study suggests a little bit of exercise can be extremely beneficial is a great place to start. By encouraging people to start small, we can build healthy habits which may then trigger an overall healthier lifestyle, simply from investing five to ten minutes a few times each week.