Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. It makes you feel better, keeps off excess weight, enhances your immune system, alleviates stress, and boosts your energy levels. What many people don’t realize, however, is that not only is exercise good for your wellbeing, but if you do it daily, it can also make you live longer. As in years longer. In fact, one study found that people who exercise just 15 minutes a day reduce their risk of early death by one-fifth. That’s a pretty decent return on your investment.
Daily exercise not only leads to a longer life, but it also enriches your quality of life both now and in the future. Your resting heart rate lowers, decreasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Your bones strengthen, which helps ward off osteoporosis. You lose fat and gain muscle and balance, which makes you less susceptible to dangerous falls as you age. Your energy increases, leading to a more positive attitude, better sleep, and higher cognitive abilities. And it’s never too late to start: many experts agree that daily exercise can add years to your life regardless of your current weight, age, or health conditions.
Keep in mind that “daily exercise” doesn’t mean you have to start forcing yourself to spend hours pounding the treadmill at your local gym. In fact, when you’re first starting out it’s best to take things slowly to avoid injury. And any form of exercise will work, so think in terms of what you like to do and not what you feel you have to do. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, take a brisk walk around the neighborhood when you get home from work. Start using the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator or escalator, ride your bike to buy groceries, try a yoga class, take a break from binge watching to do a couple minutes’ worth of jumping jacks, play a few extra rounds of golf.
If that sounds like too much for you, it’s okay to start even slower: begin each morning with a series of stretching and balancing exercises, just to get your blood moving. You’ll be surprised at how soon your mind and body will crave more activity. To stay motivated and committed, download a fitness tracking app to your smartphone and sign up for daily tips from health websites. No matter what you decide to do, just be sure to do something: every minute you spend being active will give you more years to lead the fuller life you deserve.