If you’re sedentary, any extra physical activity seems to improve your health. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. Even walking slowly can lower your risk of heart disease. Faster, farther or more frequent walking offers greater health benefits.
Here’s what regular exercise can give you:
Better quality of life — Regular exercise can increase the aerobic capacity of a sedentary adult by at least 20 percent. This means you may be able to perform at a level of physical activity comparable to someone who is 10 to 20 years younger but inactive.
Healthier body composition — Regular exercise can help reduce body fat. Losing body fat can make you look and feel better. It also may reduce your risk of heart disease and adult-onset diabetes. Because walking is a weight-bearing activity, it also can help preserve the strength of your bones. This can delay the development of osteoporosis.
Better balance and coordination — Regardless of age, physically fit people generally have faster reaction times than their sedentary counterparts. Some scientists believe it’s due to an increased flow of blood to the brain which, in turn, increases the brain’s supply of oxygen. Decreased circulation of blood to the brain slows responses.
Improved sleep — Moderate exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime can help you relax and sleep better at night.
Longer life expectancy — In a study of Harvard graduates, men who burned 2,000 or more calories a week by walking, jogging, climbing stairs or playing sports lived an average of one to two years longer than those who burned fewer than 500 calories a week by exercising. You not only might live longer if you exercise regularly, but you might live more years independently and healthfully.
(Source: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). www.mayoclinic.com)