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FOR people who exercise but fret that they really should be working out more, new studies may be soothing. The amount of exercise needed to improve health and longevity, this new science shows, is modest, and more is not necessarily better.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and other institutions combed through the health records of 52,656 American adults who had undergone physicals between 1971 and 2002 as part of the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. Each participant completed physical testing and activity questionnaires and returned for at least one follow-up visit.
The researchers found that about 27 per cent of the participants reported regularly running, although in wildly varying amounts and paces.
The scientists also checked death reports and over the course of the study, 2,984 of the participants died. However, the incidence was much lower among the group that ran. Those participants had, on average, a 19 per cent lower risk of dying from any cause than non-runners.
Those who ran 1-32 kilometres per week at an average pace of about 10 or 11 minutes per km, reduced their risk of dying more effectively than those who did not run, or who ran more than 32km a week, or ran at a pace swifter than 11km an hour.
“The data certainly support the idea that more running is not needed to produce extra health and mortality benefits,” said Dr Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans and the author of the study.
“If anything,” he continued, “it appears that less running is associated with the best protection from mortality risk. More is not better and actually, more can be worse.”NYT