When I tell my friends I’m a distance runner, one of the most common reactions I get is a groan, and something along the lines of “you must be crazy to run that far/that much.” While my love of running has taken me to some of the sports’ longest races, I tell them that in order to reap the myriad benefits of running, you don’t need to do much of it. Incorporating running into your weekly routine can be easy and fun!
Today, I’ll look at ways you can incorporate running into your exercise routine and take a quick look at the Copenhagen Study, illustrating some health benefits of running just a few times a week.
Use running as a warm-up/cool down
More into lifting weights at the gym? Do you get bored on the treadmill? Running can still help you get more out of your workout. Running just two miles, even for the beginner, takes less than 20 minutes and gets your heart pumping before you begin your normal routine. This kickstarts your mind and body, helping you stay focused on your workout and burning more calories due to your increased heart rate. If you’re like me, after a while the run will motivate you to workout harder. If you’d rather save running for the end of your workout, running can be a great way to cap your workout. This way, you don’t have to worry about burning energy you may want to save for another activity. Plus, it feels great to walk out of the gym after a good hard run.
Run to/from the gym
If you’re not a fan of treadmills, this is an easy way to work running into your day. If it is safe and feasible, check out the Google Maps tool that allows you to get walking directions to your gym. This will keep you off busy roads and allow you to add miles easily. Plus, no need to worry about parking!
With a smartphone in every pocket and Wi-Fi at most gyms, there’s no reason to worry about getting bored on the treadmill. During the months I’m running on the treadmill, I may start a TV series I only watch while working out or find new artists to listen to while running. Having a show to watch makes a run a lot easier to look forward to.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
If steady-state cardio isn’t your cup of tea, try HIIT. This method of short bursts of very intense exercise will help you get running and burn tons of calories. It can be something as simple as ending a set of pushups and rolling directly into a 50 yard sprint and going back to your routine. Working these intervals will add a new dimension of intensity to your routine.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this excerpt of the Copenhagen Study from the American Running Association:
The Copenhagen City Heart Study, which started back in 1976, makes use of the Copenhagen Population Register and is a prospective cardiovascular study that boasts subjects of both genders totaling approximately 20,000. The youngest subjects are 20 years old, while the oldest are now 93 and counting. The goal three and a half decades ago was to increase understanding of the causes underlying heart disease and stroke. Since then it has yielded some 750 published research papers and expanded to include other diseases ranging from allergy to sleep apnea. The central idea continues to be discovering associations with longevity, and now they have done so for different forms of exercise.
“Jogging” is the term of choice here because, surprisingly, the researchers found the strongest link with longevity among people who ran at a “slow or average” pace for just one to two and a half hours per week.
The average lifespan increase for male subjects in this population of exercisers was 6.2 years; for women the increase was 5.6 years. The subjects were asked to self-report their pace as either slow, average, or fast. While this seems a fairly blunt instrument to measure workout intensity, it does suggest that people who run at an easy-to-moderate effort, several times a week, for just 30 minutes or more see real health benefits. As little as two half-hour easy runs per week appear to offer measurable improvements in life expectancy. Five easy runs per week at this duration puts you in the upper reaches of this optimal zone—this is hardly overtraining.
The mortality of 1,116 male joggers and 762 female joggers was compared to the non-joggers in the main study population. The first data was collected between 1976 and 1978, the second from 1981 to 1983, the third from 1991 to 1994, and the fourth from 2001 to 2003. Results showed that in the follow-up period involving a maximum of 35 years, 10,158 deaths were registered among the non-joggers and only 122 deaths among the joggers. Analysis showed that risk of death was reduced by 44% for both male and female joggers.