If running sounds like little more than a prescription for sweat and pain, maybe this will improve your outlook a bit: you don’t necessarily have to run long distances or for long periods of time to reap the benefits of speedily putting one foot front of the other.
In 2014, researchers from Iowa State University, the University of South Carolina, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and other institutions took a look at the records of some 55,137 healthy men and women ages 18 to 100 who had visited the Cooper Clinic and Cooper Institute in Dallas at least 15 years before the study. Twenty-four of those individuals identified as avid runners, although their typical mileage and pace varied a great deal.
The researchers then examined death records for these adults and found that in the intervening 15 or so years, nearly 3,500 had died, and many of those deaths were the result of heart disease.
Not surprisingly, the runners fared better than the non-runners.
- Runners were 30% less likely to die of any cause than the non-runners
- The runners’ risk of dying specifically from heart disease was 45% lower than non-runners, even when the researchers adjusted for being overweight and smoking!
- Overweight smokers who ran less were still less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t run at all.
- According to the data, the runners earned themselves about three extra years of life compared with those who never ran. 
Here’s the best part: regardless of how much or how little people ran, the benefits worked out to be about the same. Runners who logged multiple hours and miles each week didn’t reap any extra benefits than those who ran as little as five to 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower. So if the idea of running a 5k makes you want to pull the covers over your head and go back to bed, take heart. A little exercise goes a long way towards a healthier, longer life.
Another study published in the February 10 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed similar results. In that study, Danish scientists found that jogging at a slow pace for one to 2.4 hours a week with no more than three running days per week was the ideal amount of running. The strenuous joggers were found to be just as likely to die during the 12-year study period as the sedentary non-joggers. Light joggers and moderate joggers appeared to gain the greatest health benefits. 
That 5 or 10 minutes of running not only helps you live longer, but also helps you live better. Running cuts stress, lowers the risk of breast cancer, and helps with focus and memory. For years we’ve believed that running destroys your joints, but science is second-guessing even that notion after a recent study found that running may actually prevent knee osteoarthritis.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.