How much running do you need to get fit and lose weight? Science weighs in

Just seven minutes of running a day can improve your health and get you fit – but more is better

Women running to get fit
(Image credit: Getty Images)

How much do you think you need to be running each week in order to get fit and healthy? Exercise sometimes feels like such a slog that you might think you need to be doing a lot in order to lose weight, get healthier and make a positive impact on your life. However, a report by Harvard University shows that you only have to do less than 10 minutes of exercise a day in order to improve your health. 

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examined data from around the world on over 55,000 men and women over 15 years, all aged between 18 to 100 when the study first started. About a quarter of them were regular runners. 

Over the 15 years, those who ran just 50 minutes a week or fewer at a slow to medium pace were less likely to die from any cause whatsoever, compared with those who didn’t run at all. Not only do you only need to run at a moderate pace to become healthier (no all-out HIIT or sprint drills if you don't like them!) but you need to run for an average of 7.15 minutes every day. 

That's a pretty easy benchmark to hit, but obviously if you run for longer, you will get more of those benefits. If you miss a day, running for 15 minutes will more than make up for it, adding to your total weekly minutes. It's a good idea to pick up one of the best running watch models in order to more closely record your workouts.

Running

(Image credit: Sportlab/Unsplash)

Harvard-affiliated cardiologist Dr. Aaron Baggish said: "There is no question that if you are not exercising and if you make the decision to start — whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or an elliptical machine — you are going to be better off.

“Many dedicated long-term runners do not run because they want to live longer. They run because it makes them feel better on a daily basis. There is a mood elevating, quality-of-life benefit that comes from being a regular exerciser.”

This mood-boosting benefit can contribute to running's longevity benefits. It's very well-known mood is associated with mortality, as found by researchers at University College London, although it's still not clear exactly why. However, when combined with the obvious cardiovascular benefits of running, the mood boost is hard to beat, especially if you experience the famous runner's high.

If you've never run before, it's comforting to know you only need to go for less than 10 minutes at a comfortable pace to get the benefits. However, you also must make sure you get the right tools for the job, which means finding comfortable workout clothes and a shoe that will provide ample cushioning, support your stride and give you enough spring in your step to propel you forward into excelling. 

To start, it's a good idea to browse our best running shoes for men or the best running shoes for women guides, to hit (and go beyond) those 7.15 minutes a day.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.