Every hour you run extends your life span by seven hours - no matter how slow you go, a new study has revealed.
Scientists say that running just one hour a week is the most effective exercise to increase life expectancy. This holds true no matter how many miles or how fast you run, the researchers claim.
For those that take this advice to heart and run regularly, they say you can extend your life span by up to three years.
The study, conducted at Iowa State University, reanalyzed data from The Cooper Institute, in Texas, and also examined results from a number of other recent studies that looked at the link between exercise and mortality.
Scientists found that the new review reinforced the findings of earlier research.
At whatever pace or mileage, a person's risk of premature death dropped by 40 percent when he or she took up running.
This applied even when researchers controlled for smoking, drinking or a history of health problems such as obesity.
Three years ago, the same team conducted a study that analyzed more than 55,000 adults, and determined that running for just seven minutes a day could help slash the risk of dying from heart disease.
They followed participants over a period of 15 years, and found that of the more than 3,000 who died, only one-third of deaths were from heart disease.
Co-author Dr Duck-chul Lee, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, told The New York Times that after this study was released, the team was hounded with questions wondering if other activities, such as walking, were as beneficial.
High-mileage runners also questioned if they were overperforming and if, at some point, running would actually contribute to premature mortality.
After analyzing the data in the new study, scientists determined that hour for hour, running statistically returns more time to people's lives than it consumes.
In The Cooper Institute study, participants reported an average of two hours running per week.
The amount ran over the course of 40 years would add up to fewer than six months, but it could increase life expectancy by more than three years.
The researchers also determined that if every non-runner who had been part of the reviewed studies took up the sport, there would have been 16 percent fewer deaths over all, and 25 percent fewer fatal heart attacks.
Other types of exercise were also found to be beneficial. Walking and cycling dropped the risk of premature death by about 12 percent.
Dr Lee says scientists remain uncertain as to why running helps with longevity. But he says it's likely because the sport combats many common risk factors for early death, including high blood pressure and extra body fat, especially around the middle. It also raises aerobic fitness, one of the best-known indicators for long-term health.
Running, however, does not make you immortal and the life expectancy rates don't increase beyond three years.
Improvements in life expectancy generally plateaued at about four hours of running per week, Dr Lee said. But they did not decline.