There’s no doubt about it: Regular exercise is essential to good health. Much like you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, you can’t eat enough kale to make up for the fact that you never move. Working out is not only great for your waistline and your heart, but it can change your brain for the better.
And while all forms of exercise are beneficial, recent studies have shown that one kind in particular could add years to your life. And it might surprise you.
Bad news if you’re a couch potato
Most people don’t exactly love to workout, and even those who genuinely enjoy it have days where they simply don’t want to move. But if you lead a completely sedentary lifestyle, you’re not doing yourself any favors. In fact, inactivity has been linked to even more deaths than obesity.
A 2015 study of over 300,000 people showed that just going from being totally inactive to being “moderately inactive,” or exercising lightly and infrequently, showed a huge reduction in death rate.
Any exercise is better than none
Don’t get discouraged by thinking you have to workout for hours a day. Unless you’re training for a marathon or a fitness competition, you don’t. In fact, a recent study showed that 10 minutes of moderate activity a day is all you really need to improve your health. Even the busiest among us can find time for a brisk walk.
Why cardio is so cool
You’ve probably heard about the dangers of solely sticking to cardiovascular exercise, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. And while lifting weights has some serious health benefits, cardio is also very important for your overall health.
The benefits of cardio are vast and include building more stamina, building muscle mass, better sleep, preventing high cholesterol and high blood pressure, combatting depression, and maintaining bone density, just to name a few. So it should come as no surprise that the one exercise most likely to add years to your life is a form of cardio.
The life-extending exercise
You won’t need any equipment except good sneakers and space for the exercise found to add years to your life: running. Love it or hate it, numerous studies have shown that, on average, runners live about three years longer than non-runners.
One of the most recent studies, which was published in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, discovered that running lowers people’s risk of premature death by a staggering 40%.
Hate running? Good news
Don’t worry, you won’t have to run a marathon or even a 5k to reap the benefits. The recent study found that even five minutes a day is beneficial.
Ideally, you should aim for two hours of running a week if you’d like to add three years or more to your life. That might seem like a lot, but if you take a daily walk and work to incorporate 20-30 minutes of running into it, you’re already there.
Work your way up to it
If you’re currently sedentary or rarely exercising, you’ll have to work your way up to running slowly. Running can seem overwhelming, but just like all other exercise, it just takes practice.
Start by walking … a lot. Then work your way up to incrementing bursts of running: For example, a two-minute walk followed by a two-minute jog. Before you know it, you’ll be running 10-20 minutes at a time, running the added years right onto your life span.
Take care of your body
Running is extremely beneficial, but there’s no denying that it can lead to injuries and strains. Make sure you’re wearing proper shoes, stretch, stay hydrated, and try these three exercises to prevent running injuries.