We know, we know: it’s the last thing you want to hear. After all, popping a pill or eating some superfood sounds so much easier than getting off your duff. But the news that you can get healthy simply by moving more should be cause for celebration. Just last month, a study from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health showed that men who became more fit over an 11-year period were at lower risk of dying from all causes, even though their body mass index (a measure of muscle-to-fat ratio) did not change. “This is good news for people who are physically active but can’t seem to lose weight,” wrote lead researcher Dr. Duck-chul Lee. “You can worry less about your weight as long as you continue to maintain or increase your fitness levels.” Although the study focused on men, researchers believe that women would likely experience similar benefits. Other research has shown that if you exercise more for well-being than to lose weight, you’ll be better able to make activity more of a regular habit—giving you a long list of life-changing and life-saving perks. Here’s just a peek at the biggies.
Stanford University researchers found that running delayed the onset of age-related disabilities by 16 years in a long-term study. Any type of exercise that makes you breathe hard should have the same effect.
Do 45 minutes of vigorous exercise and you’ll burn calories for up to 14 hours without doing anything more, according to Appalachian State University researchers.
Danish researchers found that exercising two minutes a day for 10 weeks eased neck and shoulder pain in office workers. Doing 12 minutes of exercise daily delivered even more relief.
Reduces heart attack risk.
Three hours a week of vigorous exercise can cut a man’s risk of heart attack by 22 percent, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study. While the researchers focused on men, physical activity is good for your heart regardless of your gender.
People who exercised at least five days a week for 12 weeks spent 43 percent fewer days suffering from upper-respiratory tract infections than people who exercised one day a week or less, says another study from Appalachian State University.
Bumps down blood pressure.
Danish men with high blood pressure who played soccer twice a week lowered their systolic pressure (the top number) by 12 points and their diastolic (the lower number) by seven points after just three weeks. Women saw a seven-point drop in systolic and a four-point drop in diastolic pressure. In another study, walking 30 minutes three days a week lowered systolic pressure five points after three months; five days of walking resulted in a six-point drop.
Keeps minds sharp.
A Mayo Clinic review of more than 1,600 papers found that aerobic exercise may reduce the risk of dementia and slow its progression.
People who exercised three times a week for 40 minutes over three months staved off migraine attacks to the same degree as people who took the migraine medication topiramate.
Just 30 minutes of treadmill walking boosts mood in people who have major depression, according to a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Lowers blood fats.
Short bouts of exercise help lower triglycerides after you eat. If you can’t commit to 30 minutes or more of exercise at a time, aim for three 10-minute sessions a day.
Fights breast cancer.
Women who were active for more than
seven hours a week for 10 years reduced their risk for breast cancer by 16 percent. A brisk half-hour walk five days a week is enough to gain a benefit.
Reduces colon cancer risk.
Washington State University-St. Louis researchers report that people who exercised the most are 24 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than those who exercise the least, and that those who exercised regularly had a lower risk of dying from colon cancer than those who didn’t exercise regularly.
Makes day-to-day life easier.
Older people who walked at a moderate pace for 2 1/2 hours per week and did strengthening and stretching exercises for leg muscles scored better on tests measuring balance, walking speed and the ability to get out of a chair, according to a study in the Journal of Gerontology.