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Ten reasons to get physical

Exercise takes too much time and too much effort for a payoff that’s long in coming, right? Wrong! You may not build and tone muscle overnight, but from the moment you commit to a regular fitness program (and it need not be strenuous; taking a 30-minute walk three times a week will do) you’ll start enjoying these life-extending benefits:

Better weight control. By building muscle, you’ll burn more calories even at rest, which will help you keep your weight stable.

A primed cardiovascular system. The physically fit are eight times less likely to die from heart attacks or strokes. Working out also lowers a person’s risk of hypertension by as much as half.

Stress-free living. Tension has a way of evaporating along with your sweat. That’s good, because stress is linked to insomnia, heart disease, headaches, back pain and colitis.

Flexibility and freedom of movement. Exercisers are less stiff, have better balance and agility and are less apt to be injured in a fall.

Strong bones. If you walk, run or do other weight-bearing exercise, you’ll be less likely to suffer from brittle bones, or osteoporosis.

Control over diabetes. Exercise reduces the body’s need for insulin and your chances of developing adult-onset diabetes. For those who already have the disease, regular exercise may help reduce the need for medication.

A good night’s sleep—night after night. Exercise helps people fall asleep more quickly, sleep more soundly and awake feeling more refreshed and alert.

Sharp mental skills. Exercise improves short-term memory and reasoning skills in older people.

Happiness and optimism. Exercise activates the release of central endorphins, chemical messengers in the brain that produce a special sense of well-being.

Round-the-clock energy. Regular exercisers enjoy greater aerobic capacity, which means they don’t tire or get winded as easily as inactive people. What’s more, they aren’t as likely to feel wiped out at the end of the day. An added bonus: Strength gained through exercise not only makes you look younger and stand straighter, but also helps you avoid back pain.