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Break a Sweat to Live Longer

Senior Airman Angela Duff, 62nd Aerial Port Squadron, runs on a pathway along Heritage Hill April 19 as part of her daily routine. AIrman Duff, an aspiring fitness competitor, attributes her physical fitness to eating healthy and regular free weight workouts at the base gym. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Abner Guzman)

Physical activity and exercise can boost your mental resiliency. A sound mind in a sound body is key for peak performance. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Abner Guzman)

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Exercise does a body good. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and colon cancer. Becoming more physically fit can help prevent injury and speed up recovery from injuries because it builds strong muscles and bones. Exercise helps control your weight as well.

Physical activity and exercise can also boost your mental resiliency. The military is already working on a holistic approach to promote mental fitness that includes a regular exercise program. Research shows that exercise can help fight depression and anxiety and promote a sense of well-being. A sound mind in a sound body is key for peak performance.
 
Unfortunately, less than half of adults in the U.S. get the recommended 2.5 hours a week of exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. This isn't just a problem for the grown-ups; children and teens are currently facing an obesity epidemic -- less than 20 percent of teens meet the physical activity recommendations. This is worrisome on many levels, but the military is taking a special interest in the issue, as the next generation is not healthy or fit enough to join the military.

Physical activity is considered a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases, including some cancers. Numerous studies have found a protective effect of physical activity on overall risk for death. One study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that moderate to vigorous activity levels increased life expectancy by 1.3 and 3.7 years respectively in men. The results for women were similar. Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who ran for an hour or more per week reduced their risk for heart disease by 42 percent compared to men who did not run. Those who trained with weights for 30 minutes or more per week had 23 percent risk reduction and those who rowed for an hour or more per week reduced their risk by 18 percent. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the U.S.

Studies have found that starting at around age 30, your cardiovascular function starts to decline about 5-15 percent each decade. But research also shows that older adults can improve their cardiovascular function with regular aerobic exercise as much as young adults can. Older adults can also improve their cholesterol and blood pressure levels, lower overall body fat and increase muscle mass. The good news is that it's never too late to start. Whether you're 5 or 105, research consistently shows that there are big benefits to engaging in regular exercise and physical activity.

If you're just starting a workout routine, 30 minutes a day is a good goal to shoot for. Working your way up to five hours of moderate (or 2.5 hours of vigorous) activity per week may provide even more benefits. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Remember that a well-rounded exercise program includes exercises that improve muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Finding activities and exercises you enjoy will help keep you on track. Be ready and resilient by improving your physical fitness.