When the nation's top health experts picked the ten most important behaviors Americans could do to improve health, their first recommendation was, "Increase the proportion of people who engage regularly, preferably daily, in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day."
Evidence of the benefits are overwhelming. A recent report by the American College of Sports Medicine shows the nation's most serious health problems decrease as physical activities increase. For instance: Active people showed a 50 percent decrease in heart disease, a 68 percent decrease in stroke, and their risk for high blood pressure decreased 57 percent.
Active people showed marked benefits to mental health, including improved memory, cognitive function, and less depression and anxiety.
People who exercise regularly report they feel more alive, have more energy, better muscle tone, look better, sleep better, are happier, and find it easier to maintain an optimistic, "can do" attitude toward life.
The corporate world knows this. Their health costs decrease because employees who are physically active are sick less and are more productive.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 27 percent of all health care costs are linked to a sedentary lifestyle and excess body weight. Think of the economic impact alone on our nation if everyone became physically active!
People who exercise regularly live longer. The Harvard Alumni study found for every hour people exercised, they lived an additional two hours longer. The authors concluded that time spent exercising was a good investment.
Because of the many benefits, the American Medical Association recently launched an initiative called Exercise is Medicine. The AMA president gets right to the point: "Exercise is not just an option; it's a necessary, active, and direct way for all of us to maintain good health, avoid illness, improve the quality of our lives, reduce health care costs, and extend life expectancy."
Any way you look at it, a consistently active lifestyle can help you enjoy the "abundant life" Jesus came to give each one of us (John 10:10). The real question is not whether you should exercise or not, but "How do I get started and how can I keep active for a lifetime?"