Are you in the same body as when you were 10, or 30, or 50? Of course not, our bodies are always changing – day to day, year to year, our health is either improving or getting worse. The good news is we all can have a big influence on our health – one big way is with exercise. The more we move, the better we feel.

For example, heart attacks don’t happen out of the blue. Your body has been changing for a long time and many health issues happen based on how we have taken care of ourselves. Or you get a new pain – it didn’t just happen to a healthy joint or organ. Your body is changing and to keep it healthy you need to exercise. Exercise can help prevent a wide variety of health problems.

Here are the facts. In one study, women who are active had a 25 – 30% lower risk of strokes. The percentage of adults in the U.S. dying of heart disease is less than in those who have healthy life styles which include exercise. Tuft’s Health and Nutrition Newsletter states that exercise may cut your risk of 13 types of cancer, including breast, colon, and lung. Arthritis is painful but moving those stiff joints can reduce the pain and improve your flexibility. Strengthening the muscles around a joint can relieve pain and stiffness, and can slow the progression of disease.

Increasing strength and flexibility helps improve our balance and helps prevent falls. On top of all this, regular exercise has been linked to a lower risk of dementia. In one study, the examination of 3700 adults over 60 showed less atrophy in areas of the brain that deal with memory and cognition in people that got regular exercise.

Exercise can also benefit our mental health, improve our memory and reduce stress. It can boost your overall mood by releasing endorphins (those things we all have inside us that make us feel happy) and help us manage depression. This is especially important for those still suffering from the after-effects of hurricane Ian. Exercise helps us lose weight which decreases the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. And, it can improve your appearance, boost your energy, and delay the aging process.

There are lots of reasons people don’t exercise. We say we’re too busy. We may be self-conscious. We think it’s too late. But, it is important and the most important thing is to just get started. It is also helpful to increase your activity: parking a little further from the store, taking the steps instead of the elevator, or getting up and walking around every 30 minutes if you sit a lot. There is plenty of information out there on different types of exercise. Walking, water exercise, and bike riding are great. Guidelines state that you should do 40 minutes of exercise on 3 to 4 days a week. A good way to start is to commit to doing something 3 to 5 days a week – even is it’s just 5 minutes a day. Then, set a goal to double it the next week and so on. Before you know it, you’ll find moving is just part of your day AND you’ll feel better.

With all the benefits, why wouldn’t you exercise? The old adage “use it or lose it’ definitely applies here.