Monday, December 6, 2010

Too Cold to Bicycle? Take a walk!

You could cut your mortality risk dramatically if you just did this for 30 minutes: walk.

Or ride a stationary bike. Or dance. Or chase the grandkids around outside. Or shovel some snow. Or all of the above. Just be active for 30 minutes, five times a week. This simple choice cut mortality risk by nearly 20 percent in a recent study.

You can't be your best and be there for others unless you take care of yourself first. So no matter how busy life gets, make time for the active things in life that you enjoy. Doesn't have to be a killer ab workout or a sweat-till-you-drop spin class. In a study, people who simply did nonvigorous physical activity for 2 1/2 hours a week saw their risk of dying from any cause drop by almost 20 percent compared with the couch potatoes. If there's no special activity that floats your boat, just walk. Hoofing it for 30 minutes, five times a week, is a small and easy investment to make in your long-term health.

Of course, a little sweat is healthy, too, so if you want to crank it up a notch, and you don't have any health conditions in the way, feel free. When the people in the study kicked activity levels into high gear -- logging 7 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week -- their mortality risk dropped by 25 percent compared with nonactive folks. Chalk it up to the favorable impact exercise has on weight (active people gain less over time) and blood pressure (exercise helps keep those blood vessel walls nice and relaxed).

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