Going for a run just once a week could be enough to cut the risk of early death by a quarter, research suggests.
The analysis involving more than 230,000 people found those who regularly headed out for a jog - no matter how fast or far - had far lower death rates. The research, which tracked men and women for up to 35 years, found any amount of running was linked to a 27 per cent reduction in mortality from any cause.
Regular runners also saw a 30 per cent lower risk of heart death and a 23 per cent reduction in the chance of dying from cancer.
Researchers from Victoria University in Melbourne examined 14 studies that looked at the links between running and mortality rates. They found even the smallest amount of running - such as one run a week of less than 50 minutes - was enough to have a significant impact on mortality.
There was no evidence to suggest that doing more than this conferred a greater benefit, they found.
Exercise is associated with a host of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
In the review, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists analysed results from 14 studies of 232,149 people, whose health was tracked for between 5.5 and 35 years.
Prof Zeljko Pediscic, the lead researcher from Victoria University, said: "Significant reductions in mortality risk can be expected for any dose of running, even just once a week. Overall, participants who did any running saw their risk of early death fall by 27 per cent."
Researchers said the findings suggest that running could be a good option for those whose main obstacle to taking exercise is a lack of time. NHS guidance says all adults should get 150 minutes "moderate" exercise - such as brisk walking or cycling - weekly, or else 75 minutes of vigorous movement, such as running.
But four in 10 people aged 40 to 60 fail to manage a brisk 10-minute walk even once a month, Public Health England warned.
Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive, the not-for-profit health body, said: "Going for a regular run is one of the simplest ways to stay healthy and happy, offering a fantastic range of physical and mental benefits, no matter what your age, experience or ability. Physical activity can help to treat and prevent more than 20 lifestyle-related diseases and this research shows the importance of taking the first step and doing things at your own pace so that it is sustainable."
Last week, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, urged everyone to make "small changes" to their lifestyles to boost fitness, after revealing that he now walks up nine flights of stairs to reach his office.