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Health Benefits of 20 Minutes of Exercise

More Than the Scale: 3 Important Reasons to Move 20 Minutes a Day

Sure, the amount of calories you can burn in 20 minutes is nothing to sneeze at (neither is the fact that 20-minute workouts boost your metabolism), but there are more reasons to fit in a short workout than your jean size. In fact, the effect a small amount of any kind of exercise has on your health can be far more important. Here's why.

You'll be healthier and live longer: If you want to increase your chances of living longer, fitting in 20 minutes of exercise a day should be your top priority. Studies have found that even daily low-intensity exercise can be incredibly beneficial in your overall health, lowering your risk of diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases. And exercise doesn't have to mean a sweaty, exhausting run; gardening, walking, or other low-intensity exercise can offer many benefits, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, says journalist Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer. "Fitness is almost certainly more important than fatness," she tells The New York Times. "If you have to choose, choose to be fit, whether you lose weight or not."

You'll become stronger: Keeping your muscles strong and healthy is important for everyone, not just those looking to sculpt the perfect body. Healthy muscles help your body function properly, from being able to lift grocery bags to helping you steady yourself (and prevent injury) when you miss a step on the stairs. A recent study found that it doesn't take much to help build strong muscles — researchers found that exercising for just 20 minutes causes immediate changes in muscle tissue DNA.

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You'll boost your mood: Fitting in a short, easy workout can improve your mood for many reasons. Not only will being active increase your endorphin levels and help you relieve stress, but making 20 minutes of moderate exercise your daily goal can help keep you from feeling discouraged and beating yourself up for missing a workout; after all, it can be much easier to fit in a leisurely walk at lunch than all the prepping, changing, and showering that comes with a sweaty gym workout.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography
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