It’s no secret that physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. That’s the equivalent of exercising for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. Other research has shown that even if you get in a regular sweat sesh, it’s important to continually move throughout the day because sitting for long periods can lead to an earlier death.
While you’ve likely heard over and over that you need to keep moving, you may not know why all of that physical activity is so necessary. To clear up the confusion, here are three reasons why you’ll want to make moving a priority in your day:
It’s good for heart. Your heart is a muscle and the best way to make a muscle stronger is to exercise it. Regular physical activity reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease and helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. When you exercise, the extra exertion forces your heart to pump more blood through your body. This helps strengthen the heart muscle, keeps it from getting stiff and encourages arteries to dilate more. Regular physical activity also helps you lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
It helps control blood sugar. It’s been known for quite some time that inactivity can increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but researchers didn’t know why. Many studies followed sedentary people who also may have been obese, eaten poorly or had other issues that could result in an increased risk.
But a group of researchers at the University of Missouri studied people who were typically active, getting in an average of 13,000 steps a day. After 3 days at their usual activity levels, they had subjects spend 3 days cutting their activity at least in half. Even though the subjects ate the exact same food when active and inactive, researchers found that subjects’ blood sugar levels spiked significantly after meals on the inactive days. Although small stints of inactivity won’t permanently affect the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels, regular inactivity may have a lasting effect.
It helps your mental health. Regular physical activity can influence your mood and mental well-being in a positive way. Not only does moving help you work through feelings of stress and anger, but it may even make your brain’s “fight or flight” system less reactive. Research shows that movement can decrease anxiety by increasing a person’s tolerance for physiological changes that occur with fear. Other studies show that exercise can be as effective as medication and therapy when it comes to reducing depressive symptoms.
While heading to the gym or going on a run most days of the week is certainly good for you, it’s also important to get into the habit of moving more during the day whenever possible.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator, pace while talking on the phone, walk the dog or park farther from your destination. Any activity you add to your day is good for your overall health and is worth every step.