Becoming physically active may be one of the best things you can do for your health. Whether it is working out at the gym, hitting the local hiking trail or skipping to the beat as you clean the house, it all counts towards improving your health. As little as 30 minutes of physical activity, on most days of the week, can significantly reduce your risk for several health conditions. Diabetes, heart disease, depression and certain types of cancers can all be warded off or postponed by implementing a moderate intensity physical activity program.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend most adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. You should also include two or more days of strength training each week.

But don’t feel like you have to join a gym or set aside large amounts of time for activity. Research has shown that shorter bouts of activity done continuously for 10 minutes can be tallied throughout the day. So incorporating walking during breaks at work, then playing with the kids in the evening can add up to produce significant health benefits.

So how easy can it be to add physical activity into your busy life? Here are some options:

  • Get out and walk at lunchtime
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Go to a park and play with your kids
  • Sign up for a community sports league or exercise class
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Go dancing
  • Step to the music while doing household chores

Keep it simple and remember that it all counts towards improving your health. Be sure to talk with your physician about physical activity levels that are safe for you. Especially if you have any health conditions or concerns.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Evidence is mounting that increasing physical activity levels improves your health. Becoming more active has enormous hidden benefits including:

  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease and stroke are the two leading causes of death in the United States. Physical activity has been shown to help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels reducing your risk for these diseases. 
  • Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Physical activity can keep blood sugar levels in check and assist with weight control, lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes. 
  • Reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. Reductions in colon and breast cancer have been shown when people are physically active. Research also suggests that endometrial and lung cancer can be reduced by increasing physical activity levels. 
  • Assists in weight control. Physical activity burns calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories that are burned. This can help prevent excess weight gain or help to maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Strengthens your bones and muscles. No matter your age, it is important to maintain your bones and muscles. By participating in specific muscle strengthening activities, you can slow the loss of bone that comes with aging and increase overall muscle and strength. This will allow you to perform daily activities more easily. 
  • Improve your mental health and mood. Becoming physically active can help keep your thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better. 
  • Increase your chances of living longer. Research shows that being physically active can reduce your risk of dying early from leading causes of death like heart disease or stroke. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention