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How much do you actually need to run to reap the health benefits?

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Clark Howard Staff

Whether you love to run, hate running, or kind of enjoy it, running and exercise in general does have substantial benefits, such as decreasing the risk of many diseases and improved sleep.

But how much do you actually have to run on a weekly basis to reap those benefits?

The optimum mileage for running

According to a recent review of studies on running, just five or six miles per week will do the trick!

For this review, researchers analyzed studies published in PubMed that included at least 500 runners and five-year follow-ups since 2000. Researchers studied the relationship between vigorous physical activity and cardiovascular disease, as well as overall mortality.

What they discovered is great news for moderate exercisers: People who logged five or six miles a week over the course of one or two sessions per week (for less than 51 total minutes) had a lower risk of various diseases compared to people who ran less or did not run at all.

Specifically, these people had a decreased risk of certain cancers, stroke, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — just by running twice a week. And they didn’t even have to run for a full hour.

People who run twice a week reap the same benefits as those who run more

In addition, when researchers reviewed the effects of running and mortality related to how often one runs, they discovered that the minimum amount of running had the same benefits as running more miles and more often.

“Maximal health benefits of running appear to occur at quite low doses, well below those suggested by the US physical activity guidelines,” researchers write in the study.

But if you want to lose weight, you might still need to run more to gain ground in that area. More calories burned means more weight lost.

The review’s lead researcher, Carl J. Lavie, MD, gave this advice to the New York Times: “Running for 20 to 30 minutes, or about a mile-and-a-half to three miles twice per week would appear to be perfect.”

This is great news for those with a busy schedule — you can save time and still reap the same benefits as people who run more than twice a week.

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