There is strong evidence for the effectiveness of regular physical activity in the prevention of several chronic diseases. Might it not only help to add life to our years, but years to our life? Is it truly survival of the fittest?

Exercise is so important that not walking an hour a day has been considered a “high-risk” behavior, alongside smoking, drinking excessively, and being obese. Having any one of these high-risk behaviors appears to effectively age us three to five years in terms of risk of dying prematurely. Interestingly, individuals who eat green vegetables on a daily basis do not appear to have that same escalation in risk. But, even if kale-munching couch potatoes do live as long as walkers, there are a multitude of ancillary health benefits to physical activity—so much so that doctors are encouraged to prescribe it to signal to the patient that exercise can be powerful medicine.

Exercise for 20 minutes, and you may add an hour to your life. So, for all those who say they don’t have time to exercise, it’s like a three-to-one return on investment. Give 20 minutes of your life to get 60 minutes of life.

Close up of legs with running shoesCurrently, most health and fitness organizations advocate for a minimum of a thousand calories burned from exercise a week, which is like walking an hour a day, five days a week. But seven days a week may be even better in terms of extending one’s lifespan.
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Person working at a standing deskProlonged daily sitting is associated with a shorter lifespan, even in those who exercise regularly. Standing and treadmill desks are two potential solutions for office workers.
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Older couple walking in a parkIf the U.S. population collectively exercised enough to shave off just 1 percent from the national body mass index, 2 million cases of diabetes, 1.5 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and a hundred thousand cases of cancer might be prevented. Learn More