The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and the American Heart Association advise adults to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity (or about 20 minutes a day), in addition to two days of muscle-strengthening activity.
This can seem like a lofty goal, and there's reason to believe that most adults find these recommendations to be daunting — since the CDC estimates that nearly 80 percent of Americans don’t meet these standards.
There are numerous benefits associated with exercise and physical activity, but you're only going to reap the rewards if you can stick with it. Staying fit should be thought of as a marathon, not a sprint.
Key factors in building consistent fitness habits include simplifying the process and removing initial barriers so that you're able to move more throughout the day without it disrupting your schedule too much.
Biting off too much, or attempting to stick to a resolution for an entire year can be overwhelming and discouraging. It's usually better to break bigger fitness goals into smaller, more achievable steps. This can remove some initial obstacles standing in your way to living a more active lifestyle, such as procrastination, self-consciousness, or worries over the time and cost involved.
Remember that when it comes to being active, there's nothing wrong with starting small — the idea is to just start! Let's look at why it's important to stay physically active, as well as tips for squeezing more movement into your busy life.
Why Is It Important To Move and Stay Active?
Did you know that as little as 15 to 20 minutes of exercise each day is thought to be enough to reduce mortality risk and increase life expectancy? While many adults don't have the time to carve out an hour daily from their packed schedules for a full-on workout session, most can find 15 minutes.
The benefits of regular exercise extend far beyond just losing weight or toning up — since staying active also supports your immune system, cardiovascular system, brain function, and much more.
Certain types of exercises may even help you to live longer and to be more mobile and independent in older age. For example, higher intensity aerobic exercises such as running or cycling can function as natural "life extenders", even if you only do them for 5 to 10 minutes per day in bursts.
Here are some of the top reasons to add more movement to your day, even if it's less than a half-hour daily:
Boosts mental health and happiness
Exercise is both a natural stress reliever and a protector against depression. It can help to increase your confidence, and almost instantly puts you in a more pleasant mood, due to the release of "feel good" chemicals when you exercise.
Improves your sleep
Most people find that exercising during the day helps them sleep more soundly, due to its tiring effects and ability to manage stress. Movement during the day (and sunlight exposure) can also help you sleep better by strengthening your circadian rhythm, also called your "internal clock" which makes you feel drowsy at night and awake during the day.
Can increase your energy, focus, and memory
Low or moderate-intensity exercise during the day usually leads to a lift in energy, focus, and productivity. Regular exercisers tend to report lower levels of fatigue and better concentration, due to exercise's positive effects on stress, cognitive function, circulation, sleep, and overall brain health.
Reduces heart disease and diabetes risk
Movement is great for your heart since it increases circulation, helps reduce inflammation, and can help to manage blood pressure. For those who have already dealt with issues such as coronary heart disease, a stroke, or prediabetes, regular physical activity can usually help to manage these conditions just as well as medications can.
Resistance-training, which includes lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, or doing some yoga moves, helps improve muscle strength and muscle mass, while also keeping bones strong.
Motivates you to be healthier overall
Setting and achieving fitness goals is a natural way to give yourself a confidence boost, which can kickstart other healthier habits such as eating better and getting more sleep.