Consistently adhering to a running program is accepted by most health experts as a great way to get some solid cardio in, which can lower your risk of a whole slew of diseases—most notably cardiovascular disease—and has been shown to cut the risk of early death. But just how much running you need to do to get those benefits has been widely debated, though a study from 2014 found that jogging just five minutes a day could make your life span longer.
The same researchers that completed that study recently released a new one that built upon those early results and closely examined the data. After sifting through the old data, they found a bunch of new and interesting info. For one, they discovered that no matter how much or how fast you run, your chance of an early death drops by 40%, even if you smoke, drink, or have other problems like high blood pressure or obesity. Another tidbit: Say you only run two hours a week—which is what the subjects in the original study averaged—that is equivalent to about six months of your life over 40 years, but that little amount will up your chance of living longer by 2.8 years.
The upper limit on extra life span, the researchers say, is about three years, and the benefits level off after you’ve run for about four hours per week. They also found that other exercises give a longevity effect, but not quite as much. Cycling, walking, and other exercises that gave a similar workout to running only decreased risk of an early death by about 12%.
To get started on your own long-life plan, browse through one of our many excellent running programs. But just remember: For longevity purposes, you don’t have to go out and run yourself ragged daily—take it easy, go at your own pace, but try to get in 2 to 4 hours a week for maximum benefit.