Some exercise is better than none, but more isn’t necessarily better than some. Those are the conclusions of a new study into jogging habits and life expectancy, which found people who went for light jogs multiple times per week lived longer than those who didn’t exercise at all and even those who jogged more intensively.

Contrary to popular opinion, which routinely instructs people to throw out their mother’s aerobics routine and adopt this crazy new impossible workout, going for a humble jog could be a person’s best friend for adding a few years to her life. On the other hand, vigorous jogging could actually be counterproductive. When the research team compared their results of sedentary non-joggers and fitness nuts, life expectancy wasn’t all that different.

"The U-shaped association between jogging and mortality suggests there may be an upper limit for exercise dosing that is optimal for health benefits," said Dr. Peter Schnohr, lead author of the study, of Frederiksberg Hospital in Denmark, in a statement.

Exercise starts off being nothing but beneficial — even the smallest increases in heart rate help strengthen the muscle. As time goes on, these improvements multiply. But at some point, the new research suggests, the body hits a critical point where the added intensity doesn’t do anything for you. Or, if you jog a lot, it could put undue stress on your joints and wear down your body to a similar degree as if you had just stayed home in sweatpants.

Schnohr and other researchers involved with the Copenhagen City Heart Study tracked hours of jogging, frequency, and people’s perception of pace across 5,048 participants over a 12-year period. They separated people according to their jogging habits. At the end of the 12 years, they counted 28 deaths broadly among joggers and 128 deaths among non-joggers.

People who fared the best in the study jogged 1 to 2.4 hours per week at a light pace. People had a slightly lower lifespan at a moderate pace, and at a strenuous pace it was effectively equal to people in the non-jogger group. What Schnohr wants to emphasize, however, is that light jogging doesn’t necessarily mean the exercise is light. "The pace of the slow joggers corresponds to vigorous exercise and strenuous jogging corresponds to very vigorous exercise," he said.

Despite how rarely the official guidelines are followed, the federal standards for healthy amounts of exercise don’t demand much — a half hour a day of brisk walking fits the bill. Other forms, like weightlifting, demand even less time. Whichever your preference, science is finding the one variable that matters most is consistency. Light jogging might seem sluggish at the time, but extrapolated over decades the benefits in joint health and overall vitality begin to appear. Likewise, what began as a strong body capable of logging tens of miles each week may begin to break down if it isn’t given the proper rest and rehabilitation.

And if you can help it, go for that jog with a friend — or 10 friends. A trip to the great outdoors in larger groups has been repeatedly found to boost people’s mental health. Just don’t get lost. Science recommends light jogs in the daylight, not frantic sprints through pitch black.

Source: Schnohr P, O’Keefe J, Marott J, Lange P, Jensen G. Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality: The Copenhagen City Heart Study. JACC. 2015.