Exercise means different things to different people. To the athlete, it is a priority that keeps them in optimum shape and able to perform. To the average individual, regular exercise may be pursued because of how good it makes them feel. To the sedentary, exercise is good advice that just seems to be hard to implement.

There are many benefits to completing regular, moderate exercise. A recent study in Circulation, a publication of the Journal of the American Heart Association, confirmed that a daily 30-minute walk was associated with a 40 % risk reduction for cardiovascular disease. There are numerous other benefits to regular physical activity, such as:

• Managing weight. This in turn leads to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. This is in part due to increased circulation and speeding up digestion. If one extends their activity beyond 30 minutes, such as another 10-15 minutes, it aids in utilizing fat stores as energy. This is because we store sugars in our muscles that are used for initial activity, but after about 30 minutes, they run low and fat becomes the primary source of energy.

• Preventing and controlling of Type II Diabetes Mellitus.

• Reducing the risk of osteoporosis and giving strength to the structures that support arthritic joints, including muscles, tendons and ligaments.

• Strengthening the immune system, which can help reduce the risk of cancer.

• Elevating our mental well-being by helping to reduce anxiety, alleviating mild depression and improving sleep patterns.

How to Get Started

If you have not had a medical check up, see your doctor first. Your primary care physician can help you develop a workout plan tailored to your age, health, gender and lifestyle needs.

The simple art of walking can be the best start. It can be initiated in several ways, keeping safety in mind first. Here are a few tips:

• Always walk in a safe environment, such as near your home, at a gym or even in your home.

• Make sure you have a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Look for styles labeled “walking sneakers” when you shop. You may want to purchase a pedometer, a small instrument you wear that measures your distance. Although time spent in physical activity is more important physiologically, it is fun to see that on a regular basis, one can log up to 400 miles per year completing usual activities.

• Try to have a regular time of the day for your exercise. This will make it easier to be consistent. Make sure to exercise at least six times a week.

Remember: Regular exercise isn’t just about extending quantity of life, but also about improving the quality of your day-to-day experiences. This will help you to remain independent and enjoy vitality while experiencing an enriched, fulfilling life.

For more information about exercise, weight management and heart health, visit: www.americanheart.org or www.womensheart.org.