It is hard to imagine a single practice with more health benefits than regular physical activity. To get benefits, you don’t have to run a marathon. Regular activity—something as simple as a brisk, 30-minute walk each day or almost every day—can help you reduce your risk of heart disease. (If you’re also trying to manage your weight or prevent gradual, unhealthy weight gain, bump that up to 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week.)
Multiple Benefits Throughout the Body
In addition to protecting your heart in numerous ways, staying active:
May help to prevent cancers of the breast, uterus and colon.
Strengthens your lungs and helps them to work more efficiently.
Tones and strengthens your muscles.
Keeps your joints in good condition.
May slow bone loss.
Regular physical activity can also boost the way you feel. It may:
Give you more energy.
Help you to relax and cope better with stress.
Allow you to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly.
Help you to beat the blues.
Provide an enjoyable way to share time with friends or family.
“But I Don’t Have Time!”
Physical activity does take some time, but there are ways to make it manageable. If you don’t have 30 minutes in your daily schedule for an activity break, try to find three 10-minute periods. If you’re aiming for 60 minutes daily, perhaps you can carve out some “fitness time” early in the day, before your schedule gets too busy. Another idea is to combine physical activity with a task that’s already part of your daily routine, such as walking the dog or doing yard chores.
Many people find that they become more efficient with their work and daily tasks when they are exercising, and have said they feel that they have more productive time during the day. Once you begin regular physical activity, you’re likely to have even more energy than before. As you progress, daily tasks will seem easier. Regular, moderate-to-brisk physical activity can also help you to reduce fatigue and manage stress.
So grab a friend, or your dog, or just head out the door by yourself for a brisk walk. In just 30 minutes you’ll feel more energized—and your heart will thank you.