Exercise to Extend Your Life

According to the World Health Organization’s data on global health risks, physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor of death worldwide, ranked right behind high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood sugar. This same data shows that physical inactivity poses a greater risk of dying than obesity, high cholesterol and alcohol use.

The good news: exercise and regular physical activity are directly associated with both longevity and enhanced quality of life.

The American College of Sports Medicine has published some eye-opening statistics on the powerful impact exercise can have on reducing the risk of disease:

  • Reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50%
  • Lower the risk of colon cancer by over 60%
  • Reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by approximately 40%
  • Reduce the incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure by approximately 40%
  • Lower the risk of stroke by 27%
  • Lower the risk of developing type II diabetes by 58%

Exercise doesn’t need to be complicated, costly or grueling. Some of the best forms of exercise are relatively inexpensive, simple and enjoyable.

Here are some key strategies to help you add more exercise and physical activity to your life:

  • If you can only do five to ten minutes of walking (or another activity) at a time that’s great! Do what you can right now and challenge yourself to do more over time. You can always do multiple five-minute walks throughout the day.
  • Strive for 150 minutes of activity per week. This can include walking, gardening, yard work or other active tasks.
  • Exercise should be enjoyable! Find exercises, classes or routines you enjoy. If you enjoy a social environment, try to find a training buddy or gym that offers a social atmosphere.
  • Don’t aim for perfection, aim for consistency.
  • Also aim for improvement. The body responds to challenge, so do more than you’re used to and your body will improve. Try to move a little more every day!
  • Each day brings about a different set of challenges. Whether it’s time, energy or other commitments, learn to roll with the punches and keep exercise a priority. To make sure you stay consistent, try exercising at the same time each day. It will feel like a healthy habit in no time.
  • Lastly, if you need help with exercise, search for it. In most communities there are knowledgeable fitness professionals who can help you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself, whether you are a beginner or an exercise veteran.

Ready to start reaping the benefits of more exercise? If you’re not already engaged in a regular exercise routine, it doesn’t take much to start! Check out the Ornish Living article The Foundation of a Successful Exercise Program.

This article was originally published in Ornish Living.

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