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Surprising Science

Good News! Exercising Less Can Make You Healthier.

Forget marathons, people. The first 20 minutes of exercise confer all its essential health benefits. Fitness researcher Gretchen Reynolds says you can do anything to get your body moving. 

What’s the Latest Development?

20 minutes of daily exercise is all you need to be healthy, says health and fitness writer Gretchen Reynolds. And while the word exercise often conjures images of expensive workout equipment and personal trainers, Reynolds says strolling, gardening, even standing up all count as exercise. “The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk—all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.” Naturally you can exercise more if you want to, but you’ll be getting extra points, not essential health benefits. 

What’s the Big Idea?

One of the most important discoveries made by recent exercise science is the difference between activity and inactivitythey are not mere opposites. Each has an entire different effect on the body. “If the big muscles in your legs don’t contract for hours on end, then you get physiological changes in your body that exercise won’t necessarily undo.” This is what makes Reynolds emphasize the importance of doing somethinganything!to get your body moving. “Just move,” she said, “because it really can be so easy, and it really can change your life.”

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