A sedentary lifestyle accelerates the aging process and can lead to a cascade of age-related health problems. According to Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., who has studied the health risks associated with too much sitting, it can have a negative impact on your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight. On the other hand, exercise has the opposite effect. Studies show it discourages the formation of blood clots, shrinks dangerous abdominal fat, and helps reverse age-related losses in muscle mass, bone strength, heart-lung capacity, and flexibility.
If youre mostly sedentary, dont despair: Even if youve never exercised a day in your adult life, you can make up for lost time. A Swedish study that followed more than 2,200 men between the ages of 52 and 80 found that those who increased their activity level from being the equivalent of a casual walker to spending at least three hours a week engaged in endurance activities (such as playing sports or gardening) cut their mortality rate to half that of those who stayed on the sofa.
Heres yet one more reason not to be a slouch: Being active can help make dieting easier by giving you more self-control. In a review, Harvard researchers hypothesized that exercise induces changes in the area of the brain that governs willpower. Think of what your brain tries to make you do when you detect something yummy as you stroll by the bakeryit makes you want to eat what you see in the window, even if you werent hungry for it a moment ago. But exercise helps strengthen your mental willpower, so you can walk by without giving the confections a single though. As a result, youll make better food choices.
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