The Single Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health

Physical activity is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Your body was designed to move. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, each week, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (fast walking, water aerobics, biking on level ground or with a few hills) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (jogging, swimming laps, biking at a fast pace or on hills).

In case you need a little motivation to get you started, here's why physical activity is the single best thing you can do for your health:

Protects Your Body

Exercise keeps the most important muscle in your body in shape-your heart. By raising your HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and lowering your triglycerides, exercise helps keep blood flowing smoothly while preventing plaque build-up in your arteries. It also helps prevent-or manage-high blood pressure and prevents type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer.

Protects Your Immune System

Proper nutrition is important for a killer immune system, but exercise has the power to protect it even more! You don't have to jog five miles a day to protect your immune system, in fact as little as 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week is enough to do the trick!

Tackles Your Stress

How many times have you turned to food to cope with your stress? A handful of candy from the office candy dish never solves the real reason why you're stressed. All it does is zap your energy and make you gain weight.

A little stress can be a good thing, but there's no better way to beat the extra stresses of a busy, demanding life than with exercise. A brisk 20 minute walk releases "feel good" chemicals, called endorphins. They change your body's response to stress and give you a better outlook on life. Suddenly things don't seem so bad! Endorphins are what give runners "runners high," but can also be felt with other forms of physical activity too. Take your pick!

Improves Mental Health

Exercise is probably the last thing you want to do when you're feeling blue, but it will help you feel better and give you a more positive outlook. Did you know that inactive people are twice as likely to experience mild to moderate depression than people who are more active? You can thank those exercise endorphins for this. The bottom line is that exercise just makes you feel good and boosts your self-esteem! One thing is for sure-you will never feel worse after you exercise.

Gives You Energy

Something you probably haven't considered is how exercise gives you hours of extra energy and helps you stay focused. No, that's not what your afternoon cup of coffee is for! Sure caffeine gives you a jolt of immediate energy, but it doesn't last the entire day. In fact, because of the high sugar content of some of these beverages, you'll experience a "crash and burn" effect once the caffeine wears off. Not exactly what you bargained for.

If you spend most of the day sitting at a desk, your body is primarily in a rested state. The blood vessels in your muscles are working like a garden hose, with a nice and steady blood flow. When you exercise those same muscles with a brisk walk, jog or stair climbing session, those same blood vessels work like fire hoses-all out maximum force blood flow! You can physically feel the effects in your legs and arms. They feel like little energizing "twitches." This is why it's so difficult to fall asleep after a jog. Your body doesn't want to sleep-it's too pumped up! Your blood is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to all the cells of your body. When your blood flows like a fire hose, more oxygen and nutrients get carried to those cells, contributing to that energizing feeling.

No amount of coffee can compete with the lasting energy produced by exercise. The best news is that this energy is stretched for hours past the second you stopped exercising. This means if you exercise first thing in the morning at 5:00 a.m., you'll feel awake and energized all the way through lunch!

Blasts Body Fat

Of course let's not forget the calorie-blasting benefits of exercise! The best part about is that you actually burn more calories even at rest.

What are you waiting for? Get moving!