Why you should run for your life — literally

I’ve never been a good runner…

In gym class, I was always one of the last few to finish when we ran the mile. In junior high, a friend (and natural-born runner) convinced me to join the cross-country team. Looking back, I’m not sure why I listened to her given my gym class experiences. But I did. It didn’t go well. I tried to quit, but the coach wouldn’t let me. I did get a tiny bit better over time but was still one of the worst runners on the team. Yay, me.

So, it’s no surprise then, that I’ve spent very little of my adult life running. I’ve found other types of exercise that feel more natural to me, like yoga, hiking, and even HIIT workouts.

But deep down I know I may be missing out on something…

So many people love running. And there are a lot of solid reasons to love it. Runners get that release of feel-good brain chemicals known as a runner’s high. They can load up on carbs because they’re burning crazy amounts of calories. And they get the satisfaction of reaching an ambitious life goal like running a marathon or triathlon. But there’s one more thing I may be missing out on by not running…

A few extra years of life.

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When you step out into the sunlight, your body begins the process of making vitamin D. But getting the ideal amount can be difficult because some of us can’t effectively absorb it. That’s just one of many reasons the vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic… MORE⟩⟩


Running lowers your risk of dying… even if you just run a little

A recent research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who run have a 27 percent lower risk of dying from all causes than people (like me) who don’t run.

The review looked at 14 studies that included 232,149 people, and the message was clear — you can run your way to a longer life.

In addition to the 27 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause, researchers found that runners had a 30 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from cancer. And do you know the best part?

You don’t have to be a marathon runner to receive health and longevity benefits from running. Even small doses made a difference.

Related: 7 tips for safe and healthy running (slideshow)

People who ran once per week (or less) for less than 50 minutes each time still reaped rewards. In fact, running more than that didn’t necessarily have additional longevity benefits. So, you can keep your running routine short and sweet without guilt that you should be doing more.

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Make running a part of your life

If you’ve spent most of your adult life avoiding running (like me), there’s no better time to hit the streets (or track… or trail) for a run.

But how do you get started when you kind of hate running?

Well, I’ll tell you what I plan to do…

  1. Start slow. I love to walk. So, at first, I plan to add jogging to my walking routine. I’ll do laps on a track where I alternate between walking and jogging. As I build up my stamina and lung capacity, I’ll gradually cut out walking laps until — ta-da! — I’m jogging the whole time.
  2. Take advantage of the motivational power of music. I don’t know about you, but music amps up my stamina. If the right song comes on, I’ll dance around like a nut… and get some killer cardio while I’m doing it. A running playlist using songs that really motivate you can (almost) make you forget you’re running.


  1. Any amount of running linked to significantly lower risk of death — MedicalXpress
  2. Is running associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysisBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.