Last updated: June 03. 2013 5:36PM - 890 Views

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Exercise is one of those rare things where the hype actually meets reality. Next to not smoking, getting regular physical activity is arguably the best thing you can do for your health.

It lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain cancers and can help control stress and boost mood. Plus, if moderate to vigorous, physical activity helps keep weight in check.

Best of all? It doesn’t take marathon training to see real health gains. A 30-minute brisk walk on five days of the week is all most people need.

Or you can do 25 minutes of more vigorous activity—jogging, step aerobics or singles tennis, for example—three days a week. Or, you can do a combination of both.

Getting any amount of exercise is better than none. The more you get, though, the better.

But don’t feel locked into running or walking. A lot of activities count as exercise: dancing, skating, gardening, cycling, scrubbing floors, washing the car by hand, playing with children. Anything that gets you moving, really.

Don’t have the free time to go to the gym? Weave activity into your day by bicycling or brisk walking to commute to work, to go to the store or to bring your children to school.

Cutting back on “sit” time is just as important as increasing “fit” time. Some ways to get you off your seat: Turn off the television and catch up on chores or play with the children. Stroll down the hall to chat with a colleague, instead of sending an email or picking up the phone.

Walk or bike for errands instead of driving.

Source: Harvard School of Public Health

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