On July 28,The Journal of the American College of Cardiology1 published the results of a study that found running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely. Runners had a 30% lower risk of dying from any cause, and gained three years of life expectancy when compared with adults who never ran. The risk of dying from heart disease for runners was 45% lower. I found it most remarkable that the benefits were the same, no matter how much or how little someone ran.
I met with a health insurance broker last week to review employee plans for the upcoming year. I left the meeting with my mind spinning. I was in desperate need of a run to clear my head and to process the financial implications of the coming year’s rate increases. Health insurance premiums, deductibles and copayments continue to increase at an exorbitant rate because the cost of providing health care to every American is expensive. It’s a complicated issue that involves a long list of factors: government regulations and taxes, the availability of expensive medications, tests and procedures, the cost of care for the chronically ill, and the administrative costs of health care, just to name a few.
During my afternoon 8-mile run that day, I questioned why I spent so much of my precious time zig-zagging the streets of Providence’s East Side. Based on this recent study, a 5-minute outing would have the same long-term cardiovascular health benefits. The excuse I hear so often from patients, “I don’t have time to exercise,” is no longer valid when the evidence shows that just 5 minutes is needed.
For runners like me, it is obvious that running offers more than health benefits. But for those who aren’t running, it seems reasonable to recommend a daily dose of running for 5 minutes. What if every health care provider recommended a daily 5-minute run? What if employers paid their staff to run for 5 minutes before lunch? Maybe we can learn from the success of the ALS ice bucket challenge and create an international social media campaign. The message would be to run for 5 minutes every day or donate $100 to the American Heart Association. Challengers could take movies of themselves running, puffing out the names of friends and family they nominate to participate in the challenge. Unfortunately, it’s likely that instead of the nation taking up running and improving their health, most would choose to donate the money. And then the American Heart Association would make millions of dollars to fund more research, proving the effectiveness of exercise as medicine.
I ended my afternoon run that day with mixed feelings. I was disheartened that my health care premiums would still rise, but excited about my ideas to help people understand that exercise is medicine. And perhaps one day we will get our nation’s health back on pace.
- Lee DC, Pate RR, Lavie JR, et al. Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014. Available at: http://content.onlinejacc.org/journal.aspx
Michelle Collie PT, DPT, MS, OCS is a Physical Therapist, the owner and CEO of Performance Physical Therapy. She lives on the East Side of Providence with her husband and 2 children. She can be reached at [email protected]