You don't need to clock record speeds or run marathons to stay healthy. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds that running as little as five minutes a day will do. It gives you the same benefits of running or walking for longer.

The key is to sustain the practice.

Running may in fact be a better exercise option than more moderate-intensity exercises for healthy but sedentary people since it produces similar, if not greater, mortality benefits in five to 10 minutes compared to 15 to 20 minutes per day of moderate-intensity activity.

The research followed more than 55,137 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a period of 15 years, recording their daily activity, including running.

Compared with non-runners, the runners had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes and a 45% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

The benefits were the same irrespective of the distance, frequency or speed. Benefits were also the same regardless of sex, age, body mass index, health conditions, smoking status or alcohol use.

Participants who ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than 6 miles, slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one to two times per week had a lower risk of dying compared to those who did not run.

Those who ran less than an hour per week had the same mortality benefits compared to those who ran more than three hours per week.

Those who persistently ran over a period of six years on average had the most significant benefits.

The lead author, Dr D C Lee, from Iowa State University, advised physicians to offer a simple exercise prescription to patients: "15 min of brisk walking or 5 min of running is all it takes for most clinic patients. Exercise is a miracle drug in many ways."

Exercise is well-established as a way to prevent heart disease and stay healthy but as with all good medicines, the question has been – how much? WHO and the US government recommend 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity, such as running.