Let this sentence from the American Heart Association fuel your motivation.
Recently, researchers have found a disturbing new trend: Heart attacks are on the rise for young women (35–54 years old). Being a woman in that age range, I've taken it to heart, so to speak, and keep returning to the American Heart Association (AHA) website to browse prevention articles – especially since the rise in women's heart attacks was largely associated with modifiable risk factors. That is, they could have been potentially prevented by addressing things like high blood pressure, smoking, weight, physical activity, et cetera.
On the page for physical inactivity on the AHA site, I stumbled across this nugget. I am a weirdo who actually enjoys exercise, but even so, sometimes I find excuses to stay in and, you know, eat lemon curd by the spoonfuls instead. Anyway, this sentence is now my mantra:
For each hour of regular exercise you get, you gain about two hours of additional life.
Upon reading that, I immediately started doing the math and figured out that I could live until about 193, yay! OK, not really. I don't know how they calculated this and there are obviously parameters, otherwise we'd see all kinds of nonagenarians out there putting in an hour to gain another.
But even so – regular activity is crucial and has all kinds of benefits. Among other things, a lack of physical activity can lead to blood clots, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other heart related problems. All of which leads to shorter lives, more expenses, and wasted resources.
"On the other hand," according to the AHA, "becoming more active can lower your blood pressure by as much as 4 to 9 mm Hg, which is the same reduction in blood pressure you’d get by anti-hypertensive medications. Physical activity can also boost your levels of good cholesterol."
Given that heart attack is the number one killer of women in this country – and regular moderate to vigorous activity can reduce heart disease by 30 to 40 percent and stroke by 25 percent – it seems kind of hard to ignore. And that's not even mentioning all the other benefits of exercise, like everything from more energy and better mood to less stress and insomnia.
A good goal is to aim for 30 minutes a day. And any activity counts; think brisk walking, housework, gardening, bicycling, taking the stairs instead of the escalator.
So if you come from the camp of "life's too short to exercise," just know that with that 200 percent return on your investment, life may be too short not to exercise. As for me, I'm putting down the lemon curd and going out for a run.