Back when I was getting physical therapy to strengthen my quads – so weakened by prednisone that I was a frequent faller with difficulty supporting myself – I told my physical therapist that my ultimate goal was to return to running.
"Why?" she asked. "Walking is good exercise."
I think if you posed this question to any runner, the answer would be something like, "Because that's what I do."
When I was bald, I frequently dreamt that I was running effortlessly, my long ponytail bobbing in the wind. These days when I drive along one of my running routes – several with big hills – I remember how I used to run there, and I want to do it again.
Today, my dedication to running was reinforced by a story in the New York Times, headlined Running 5 Minutes a Day Has Long Lasting Benefits.
A large new study, published Monday in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely. The findings suggest that the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed.
In recent years, moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, has been the focus of a great deal of exercise science and most exercise recommendations, but this study says that even a short amount of vigorous exercise is more beneficial.
Timothy Church, a professor at the Pennington Institute who co-authored the study, said there is nothing magical about running per se; running just happens to be the most convenient way for people to exercise intensely.
Interestingly, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or how little people ran, or how fast or how slowly.
I was never very fast – usually about 2/3 of the way into the pack – but since I am now very slow, that is good news for me.