Lace up! Five minutes a day can extend your life

Improve your health with just five minutes of running a day.

Sometimes taking steps to live a healthier life can seem overwhelming. But here’s a tip that’s likely to get you reaching for your sneakers: running just five minutes a day can increase your life expectancy. A joint team of American and Australian researchers reported in August that people who ran for as little as five minutes a day could reduce their risk of premature death by nearly a third. They also extended their lives by about three years.

The research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found runners were 30 per cent less likely to die during the study, which was conducted over more than two decades. Runners were also 45 per cent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

“Running even 5-10 minutes a day at slow speeds is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease,” the research team wrote. “Because time is one of the strongest barriers to participating in physical activity, this study may motivate more people to start running and continue to run.” 

Not a runner? Running coach Sally Lynch from DC Run and Let’s Run in Sydney, gives us the lowdown on how to hit the pavement safely.

Like your technique
Lynch recommends getting guidance first. “This is mostly to minimise injury,” she says, “but also to keep the beginner motivated and enthusiastic.” She suggests starting with walk-run intervals – one minute walking and one minute running, up to 10 minutes for the first week. Then, increase run time slowly as you gain fitness.

Write it in the diary
“I hear the excuse ‘I'm too busy’ a lot,” says Lynch. “But if you really want to do something, you will make the time.” It could be running to or from work, or running in your lunch break. Try getting up 40 minutes earlier on weekends. “One close friend is a 48-year-old doctor who works six long days a week, has four children with no home help and still manages four or five runs a week,” says Lynch. If it’s cold and raining, skip rope for 10 minutes.

“This is a great high-intensity interval training workout and 10 minutes is equivalent to up to 45 minutes running,” she says.

Beat the aches and pains
Warm up with dynamic drills (skipping, running backwards, walking with high knees) and cool down with static stretching. “Most running-related injuries occur within the first 10 minutes of leaving the house,” says Lynch. Starting on grass is a good idea – it’s easier on the joints. And cross-training and core strength are essential. “I make all my clients do lots of balancing exercises on one leg,” says Lynch. 

How far, how often and what to wear
Start with three short runs a week. If you want to set goals like a fun run or marathon, build up slowly. “The golden rule when increasing distance,” says Lynch, “is no more than 10 per cent per week to prevent injury.” Lynch insists on good shoes, fitted at a specialist running store. Clothes should be comfortable and have good moisture-wicking qualities. For women, a good supportive sports bra is recommended. 

Music matters
Beginners should leave the iPod at home. “Your awareness should be on your breathing and running lightly with as little noise as possible,” says Lynch. “Noise equals impact and impact is bad in running.” She recommends a clip-on metronome or a phone app set at 170bpm. Once you’re on track, look for songs that are 180bpm. “This prevents the runner from overstriding and makes sure they use the elastic rebound in the muscles efficiently,” she says.

Lynch reveals her perfect running soundtrack includes Cher’s Gypsys and Tramps and Thieves, Turning Japanese by The Vapors, Dancing With Myself  by Billy Idol, Oh! Darling by The Beatles, and Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield.

We think that running - no matter the distance - is a celebration of life. So get your runners on and go for it.

Balance Blog Team

Here at Balance, we are all about celebrating life. The Balance Blog Team are dedicated to bringing you the latest expert advice in fitness, wellbeing, finance and nutrition, all with aim of helping you live your life to fullest.