The Optimal Speed for Exercise

Problem

You know you should do some exercising, but how much? Some exercise is good for you—increased life span, lower hypertension, and so forth—but after a certain amount, are you really improving your health? And what’s the most you can do, in the smallest amount of time, that will maximize the impact on your health?

Reality

Fortunately, Emily Oster of fivethirtyeight (they’re a news site with a heavy statistical bent—check ‘em out) read through the sometimes contradictory studies, crunched all the numbers, and came up with this:

“First, some exercise reduces your risk of death. Second, the optimal walking/jogging exercise is light to moderate jogging. The optimal speed is between 5 and 7 mph, and if you do 25 minutes about three times a week, you’re all set. Nothing in the data suggests that running more—farther, or faster—will do more to lower your risk of death.”

You can read through all the permutations of her analysis if you want (it’s pretty great), but if your science reading is capped at three minutes tops, the above quoted part is the essential part.

The Takeaway

In terms of lowering your mortality—which is the most basic measure of how healthy something is—moderate jogging three times a week is best. If you have a different goal, like weight loss, training for a marathon, scenic tour of Toronto’s back alleys, and so forth, you can certainly run faster and longer. But moderate jogging three times per week is the best answer we can give you for your health.


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