“10 Reasons Why Increasing Your Physical Activity by 10 Minutes a Day Can Help You Live a Longer, Healthier, and Happier life”

Feb 14, 2022

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested that even a small increase in moderate to vigorous physical activity for US adults could result in a substantial decrease in preventable deaths.  In this study, the authors estimated that an increase of even 10 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, could have significant measurable benefits, and could lead to 111,174 fewer deaths per year.


This study is notable— because this is significantly less exercise than has traditionally been recommended for health benefits.  Per the guidelines published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity for substantial health benefits.  This is equivalent of a brisk walk 30 minutes a day for 5 days per week.  If you are doing vigorous exercise, like running, it is recommended that you aim for at least 75 minutes per week.


On the other hand, these findings are not surprising, because there is an abundance of evidence that living a sedentary lifestyle promotes inflammation, and is detrimental to our health.  Increased sedentary time is associated with: increased inflammation, increased waist circumference, increased cholesterol, and decreased insulin sensitivity.  For that reason, even just introducing a relatively small amount of activity can have enormous benefits to our physical and emotional health.


Here are 10 Reasons to Increase Your Physical Activity by 10 Minutes a Day:


  1. There is strong evidence that regular physical activity reduces the risk of dementia . There have been multiple studies which show this association, and that regular exercise may even decrease the risk of dementia by about 30%. Exercise can actually result in an increase in size of the hippocampus, (the key area of the brain involved memory) and reverse the normal brain shrinkage that occurs with age.
  2. There is also a clear link between exercise and cognitive performance. Multiple trials also have demonstrated that after a month or more of regular exercise, there was improved memory, attention, and processing speed. Exercise can help with ADHD symptoms by increasing the dopamine in your brain.
  3. Exercise can also be profoundly beneficial to our emotional health. Even one bout of physical activity can improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. For some people, exercise has been shown to be as effective as medications in treating depression. And exercise in addition to an antidepressant has been shown to be more effective than just an antidepressant alone.
  4. Exercise is also tremendously beneficial for cardiovascular health. Regular physical activity decreases the risk of coronary artery disease, and can also improve survival after a heart attack. Heart attack patients who start an exercise program can experience a 20-25% reduced death rate.
  5. Exercise can also improve your cholesterol. Regular exercise can increase your HDL (good cholesterol) and decreases your LDL (bad cholesterol).
  6. Regular exercise can also decrease your risk for diabetes by about 30%. Regular exercise decreases insulin resistance and decreases blood sugars.   
  7. Regular exercise may decrease your risk of multiple cancers. Specifically, regular exercise may even decrease your risk of colon cancer by 19% and breast cancer by 21%.
  8. Exercise can improve your sleep. Adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.  Exercise can improve both your quality and quantity of sleep.
  9. Regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off. Everyone knows that exercise is a critical component in maintaining body weight and achieving weight loss. But after you lose weight, people who exercise are much more likely to keep it off.  This is because trained muscle tissue has a higher resting energy expenditure than untrained muscle tissue. After exercising, your resting metabolism increases for about 72 hours.
  10. Exercise also strengthens your bones and muscles. Regular exercise decreases your risk of osteoporosis. It also helps with strengthening your muscles around your joints which can help improve pain from arthritis.  By strengthening your lower back muscles and core, regular exercise can help to prevent and improve back pain


Ideally, we should all be trying to incorporate a set amount of time to exercise at least 5 times a week.  At least 30-60 minute a day is optimal.  But, as we work up to that goal, we should feel good about incorporating any amount of increased physical activity in our life, even just 10 minutes.  Perhaps just changing our lifestyle to be less sedentary is the first step.  Examples of this are taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away in a parking lot, or taking a call while walking. 


In our culture, exercise is often regarded as punishment for eating.  But in reality, instead of exercising to “work off” what we are eating, we should be exercising to live a longer, healthier and happier life.



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