Live long, run strong - Women's Running

Live long, run strong

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  January 23, 2015



A recent study by Cambridge University has revealed that 20 minutes of exercise each day could be the key to a longer life. The study of more than 334,000 people over 12 years found that exercising was more important than body weight in adding years to your life.

Comparing active vs inactive groups, the researchers found that those who engaged in small bouts of regular exercise were 16% to 30% less likely to die than those leading inactive lifestyles.

The findings suggested that even 20 minutes brisk walking a day would significantly reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

We know that regular exercise has huge health benefits but in light of the new findings that regular exercise could help you to live longer, it seems more important than ever.

However, if you’ve been off the exercise waggon for a long period of time it can be hard to get back into if you’ve stopped.

It is often the case that as women (and men) get older, their once busy lifestyles slow down and exercise is no longer part of routine, exercise becomes an unattainable pursuit.

However, exercise should have no age barrier. Granted, your 70 year-old mother might not be ready for her first marathon (or perhaps she is?) but if partaking in exercise regularly is going to add years to her life and hugely benefit her health, there’s no reason it should be reserved for younger people.

oldie 2

To help you or anyone you know – be it your mother, grandmother or friend get back into exercise, we’ve compiled a beginner’s 5K training plan (click here to download) to get you to gradually build up to running for 30 minutes without stopping!

While research has suggested that 20 minutes of exercise a day has the capacity to increase your lifespan, extending this to running can only lead to greater improvements in health, further reducing the risk of  health problems such as heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure.

Talking to The Guardian, Study leader Prof Ulf Ekelund, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) epidemiology unit at Cambridge University, said:

“Although we found that just 20 minutes would make a difference, we should really be looking to do more than this – physical activity has many proven health benefits and should be an important part of our daily life.”

Whilst our guide begins with just 15 minutes walking, this gradually builds up to a running pace. Walking has huge proven health benefits these are almost doubled if one gradually picks up the speed to a jog. Small bouts of running or jogging each week will greatly increase your cardiovascular health and build strength in your bones – particularly good for slowing down the loss of bone density which occurs as we age.

Likewise, burning double the calories of walking, running will naturally lead to weight loss, not only decreasing the risk of further health problems which arise with obesity but making partaking in physical activity much easier.

Strengthening the lungs which in turn, decreases blood pressure and lowers resting heart-rate, running will greatly improve your cardiovascular health. Likewise, running helps to build strength in your bones, particularly good for slowing down the loss of bone density which occurs as we age.

The plan follows a six-week schedule but depending on your level of fitness, you may wish to complete certain week of the plan several times, depending on how you feel. Here’s a few pointers to help you along the way:

  • Before starting the plan, begin by making simple changes to your lifestyle. Perhaps you usually drive to the shops to do your weekly grocery shopping. Instead try walking part of the way to the bus stop and catching the bus part of the way there. Start to be generally more active.

walking to the shop

  • If you’re burned out after week one of the plan and don’t feel you could run solidly for 2 minutes the following week, repeat week one several times until you feel comfortable walking for 15 minutes.
  • Don’t worry about being judged by passers-by – the chances are they’re more worried about what they look like than you do!
  • If you’re new to exercise, you’re probably going to feel muscles you didn’t know existed after those first few short runs! This is normal – aches don’t necessarily equal injury, unless they persist for more than a few days.
  • If you begin to feel recurring pain in a muscle, the chances are you are suffering from an injury. Our advice; ice it! If the pain re-occurs, consult a GP or physiotherapist to check it out.

ice pack

  • If the aches you are feeling stem from simply running from scratch or returning after a long break, you should be fine to continue with your training. Our plan integrates strength training exercises each week which will help with this.
  • So, what are strength training exercises? The simple lunge is a good place to start. Start with a forward lunge with a relaxed back knee, then add a reverse lunge once you get going. As you progress, try the “lunge around the clock”, lunging to 12, 3 and 6 o’clock on the right leg, and 12, 9 and 6 o’clock on the left leg.


  • Make sure you stretch. Do a light warm-up followed by dynamic (moving) stretches before running and stretch lightly after running.

You’re ready! All you have to do now is dig out your trainers and download the training plan – good luck!

Click here to download

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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