Heart Disease Prevention | Natural Health Blog

Heart Health and Running Speed


Whoever coined the phrase “timing is everything” probably wasn’t referring to how fast you can run a mile.  Nevertheless, it is appropriate considering that recent research found that in middle-aged people, the speed at which you run a mile directly correlates to your risk of developing heart disease as you age.1

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and the Cooper Institute in Dallas worked on two separate studies relating to health and fitness.  The scientists evaluated the results when more than 66,000 subjects ran on treadmills and were tested for their cardiovascular endurance and muscle fatigue.2

They found that the average mile-running times of people in their 40s or 50s correlated strongly to whether they had a high risk of cardiovascular problems in their senior years.  The researchers used the data to break down the volunteers into three fitness categories.  The middle-aged men who could run a mile in eight minutes or less and women who could run a mile in nine minutes or less were in the high-fitness group.  The men who could run a mile in approximately nine minutes and women who could run a mile in 10.5 minutes fell into a moderately fit category.  Finally, those men who could not run a mile in less than 10 minutes and women who could not run a mile in less than 12 minutes were categorized as low-fitness.

Those with the highest level of fitness in the study were found to have only a 10 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease.  However, those in the lowest fitness group were shown to have a 30 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease.  All of which really means you shouldn’t wait another day to get exercising regularly, even if you are only in your 30s or 40s and otherwise trim and healthy.

The long-term health benefits began to show up as soon as participants increased their exercise regimens and elevated themselves from the low fitness category to the moderately fit category.  Obviously running isn’t the only way to stay healthy and keep your heart health maximized, but treadmill testing is a good way to ascertain overall cardiovascular fitness.  If you are a regular swimmer, bicycler, aerobics-class taker, or do any of a number of other activities that get your heart pumping several times a week, you would most likely fall into the highly fit group.  However, if you are just stroling the neighborhood for 20 minutes a few times a week, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are truly fit and active.

Back in 2007, 19 percent of respondents to a UPI poll said that they exercised regularly although their regimen consisted of only one session of exercise per week.  Another 27 percent said that they exercised less than 30 minutes at a time.  A third group in the poll, with 29 percent of respondents, said they exercise only two to three times a week.  Add it up and you realize that many of them are really only exercising for a total of 60 to 90 minutes per week — the barest minimum of a routine, and not likely to get you out of the low-fitness category in a study like the present one.

As we should all be well aware by now, regular exercise does all kinds of beneficial things for our bodies.  Studies have shown that aerobic exercise alone more effectively controls diabetes than other lifestyle changes or combinations of approaches.  Other research has found that a combination of weight training and aerobic exercise for three 45-minute workouts weekly leads to a 15 to 20 percent decrease in heart attack and stroke risk and a 25 to 40 percent lower risk of diabetes-related eye or kidney disease.

So if you are not already exercising daily or almost every day, move away from the computer and start taking care of your body.  Find cardio/interval workouts, strength training, and flexibility activities that you like (or at least don’t mind doing) and make the time to perform them regularly.  You will feel better almost immediately and reap the benefits in health and fitness for years to come. For more on what a comprehensive exercise program really looks like, check out The Need for Exercise.


1 Gupta, Sachin; Rohatgi, Anand; et al. “Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Classification of Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Mortality.” Circulation. 21 March 2011.  American Heart Association, Inc. 26 July 2011. <http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/123/13/1377.abstract?sid=f6849f21-51db-4980-9e10-d95ad3c4cf09>.

2 Berry, Jarett D; Willis, Benjamin; et al. “Lifetime Risks for Cardiovascular Disease Mortality by Cardiorespiratory Fitness Levels Measured at Ages 45, 55, and 65 Years in Men.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 12 April 2011.  American College of Cardiology Foundation. 26 July 2011. <http://content.onlinejacc.org/cgi/content/abstract/57/15/1604?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=jarett+berry&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT>.


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