Fitness: Why running could make you live three years longer (and how to start)

Running is great for fitness, but it also reduces your risk of an early death thanks to its amazing benefits. Here's how to start

Woman running
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Running is good for you. That's pretty much a given. When you picture a healthy person, whatever their discipline, chances are you picture them either eating a healthy meal or going for a jog. 

Although studies have shown running isn't the be-all and end-all when it comes to weight loss, it is amazing for fitness, improving cardiovascular and respiratory health. Any amount of running, even just five minutes a day, is guaranteed to improve your health, according to science. 

All this running has the benefit of adding around three years onto your life. A study published by the American College of Cardiology examined the long-term effects of running on mortality. It was found that persistent runners had 29% less risk of an early death. Getting more specific, regular runners were 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular causes.

The question is what classes as "regular" and the good news is that it's not much: around 50 minutes a week, covering around six miles in total. Running for just over 10 minutes a day, five days a week, is enough to reduce your risk of mortality from cardiovascular conditions by half. 

Alternatively, you could split that into two 25-minute runs, or if you're feeling up for challenge, do the whole thing in one go. Although the study took place over the course of three years, there's never been a better time to join the thousands of people lacing up their running shoes for the first time, as a way to get their exercise in during the global pandemic. 

Running autumn vitamin D

(Image credit: Nathalie Desiree/Unsplash)

Running is one of the easiest sports to get into: at its most basic, you just need a good pair of running shoes and some comfortable clothing, and away you go. We recommend checking out our best running shoes for men and best running shoes for women guides on how to find the perfect fit shoe for you. 

Running shoes are essential because it can be a high-impact discipline: as your feet are pounding the pavement, it's putting stress on your ankles, shins and knees. A good pair of running shoes support your feet and soften these impacts, while a cheap and nasty pair can lead to painful  and damaged muscles and bones over time, causing conditions like shin splints.

Of course, if you enjoy running, we recommend a pair of the best running headphones so you can soundtrack your sessions, along with more comfortable, specialised running clothes with sweat-wicking fabrics. 

The best running shoes for men

(Image credit: Amazon)

Now you're ready for your first run, a great place to start is setting a goal distance, like 5k. Our Couch to 5K guide is perfect for new runners, shepherding you through a short eight-week running programme. By the end, you should be able to comfortably run 5k without stopping, even as a new runner. 

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.