By Curves

For better or worse, September is a time for studies. And a new study out of Iowa State University belongs in every woman’s “for better health” syllabus: Iowa State scientists recently found that running for just 5 to 10 minutes a day can significantly reduce your risk of death from heart disease (the number-one killer of women). And it gets even better: According to the study results, it doesn’t matter how far or how fast you run—all runners reaped the benefits. Which means you can, too.
“Most anthropologists say that humans were designed to run only about 200 yards continuously,” says Jeff Galloway, an Olympian now widely known as “America’s Coach” because he’s gotten so many people off the sidelines and into running shoes by promoting a pressure-free “run walk run” method—or, running broken up by walking. “Running nonstop just isn’t something we’re inherently built to do, so it doesn’t have to be your goal. Now isn’t that a relief?”

Your goal, as a seasoned walker, is simply to add a little running to your walking. Galloway suggests starting with “5/55”—5 seconds of running followed by 55 seconds of walking. Over and over and over again. Just make sure, cautions Galloway, that you don’t take your long walking stride and use it during your 5-second runs. “I recommend a shuffle, which is just a very short stride with your feet low to the ground,” says Galloway. “You’re using your ankle, not your knee, to propel yourself forward, so very little muscle effort is required.”

Set your watch to beep or vibrate every minute, and proceed at your own rate. After a week, change your 5/55 to 10/50, and move forward from there. “There’s no guideline as to how quickly you should change your running/walking ratio and no goal of running a specific amount,” says Galloway. “Simply do what you can do without huffing and puffing. No huffing and puffing allowed.”

Need a little more incentive? Galloway suggests you sign up for a 5K (3.1-mile) run. His own—Barb’s 5K, named for Barb Galloway, Jeff’s running and life partner of 38 years—will be held in Atlanta on December 13th but there are bound to be several in your own area this fall. Seasoned walkers, he says, need only shuffle-walk-shuffle for a month or so to make it over the finish line—on the road and in life.