Just 30 minutes of exercise a day helps you live longer

Think of what 30 minutes really is in relation to the rest of your 24-hour day. It's a fraction: 1/48th to be exact. Ask yourself - is that a fraction of time that you can spare if it meant greater agility and energy for everyday tasks, lower healthcare costs and a longer, healthier life?

Research shows that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity training a day has tremendous health benefits. Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality, explains why these minutes make all the difference:

Exercise reduces disease risks

Getting active and fit has been shown to decrease the risk of - and manage - a number of lifestyle diseases. Studies prove that even a moderate level of regular exercise can:

  • Improve insulin sensitivity thereby reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Increase good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque (fatty substances) in our arteries
  • Lower the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Improve blood circulation, lowering the risk of stroke
  • Strengthen the immune system, lowering susceptibility to illnesses like the common cold
  • Help us "bounce back" quicker after being sick, and
  • Lower the incidence of certain types of cancers, including breast cancer.

Exercise helps with weight management

Maintaining a healthy body weight involves balancing your energy intake from food with your energy output through exercise. We start losing fat when we expend more energy than we consume. So the best way to tip this equation to lose weight is to reduce the "energy in" by consuming fewer kilojoules and increase "energy out" through exercise.

Exercise protects your bones

As we get older, the loss of bone mass can lead to serious health problems, such as osteoporosis. The good news is that your skeleton becomes stronger in response to the mechanical loading (e.g. weight lifting) that occurs during exercise. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have higher bone density and lower hip and vertebral fractures than age-matched people who live sedentary lifestyles.

Exercise is an effective stress buster

Exercising provides a "time out" from the stresses of daily living. The reason is chemical: when we exercise, our body secretes hormones called endorphins that help improve our mood. Other hormones that help us control stress and anxiety - norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin - are also secreted in higher amounts during exercise. Regular physical activity is also a proven intervention to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Exercise helps you sleep better

People who exercise regularly fall asleep quicker, sleep better and feel less tired during the day than those who don't.

"At the end of the day," says Mari, "exercise is a priority worth keeping. Make it yours!"

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