Working out isn't only about how you'll look in that bikini. Getting -- and staying -- in shape boosts heart health, helps your skin and improves your sleep, to mention just a few of the healthy perks.
And just last week, we added another motivation to the list, when a new study linked jogging to increased life expectancy. Researchers from the Copenhagen City Heart Study found that jogging one to two-and-a-half hours a week in two or three different sessions was associated with an additional 6.2 years for men and 5.6 years for women.
The CDC recommends healthy adults get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking), plus two or more days of strength-training a week.
The research doesn't quite prove that jogging helps you live longer, as The Boston Globe points out, but it is certainly encouraging, and hopefully inspiring for anyone who is more inclined to sit on the couch than lace up a pair of running sneakers.
And jogging isn't the only form of exercise that has been found to add years to your life -- and in some instances, it only takes a few minutes of physical activity to make a big difference. Here are six other ways fitness has been linked to increased longevity.
In 2008, a small Swiss study found that sedentary people who switched from taking escalators and elevators to taking the stairs <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7591311.stm" target="_hplink">cut their risk of dying prematurely by 15 percent</a>. "This suggests that stair climbing can have major public health implications," lead researcher Dr. Philippe Meyer, told the BBC. An earlier look at data from the Harvard Alumni Health Study also found that climbing 35 or more flights of stairs a week significantly <a href="http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/151/3/293.short" target="_hplink">increased longevity</a> when compared to people who climbed fewer than 10 stories a week. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariachily/3381125472/" target="_hplink">mariachily</a></em>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/bicycle-bike-commuting-tips_n_1427869.html" target="_hplink">Biking to work</a> is a great way to squeeze exercise into your day, spend some time outside and even save on gas money. But a leisurely ride, while it might leave you less sweaty upon arrival at the office, won't do as much for your lifespan as if you really ride it out. A study of <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110829070507.htm" target="_hplink">Copenhagen cyclists</a> found that men who pedaled the fastest lived more than five years longer than slower cycling men, and the fastest women cyclists lived almost four years longer. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/8136496@N05/3801963043/" target="_hplink">terren in Virginia</a></em>
A 2009 analysis of data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study found that men who swam regularly had about a 50 percent <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/02/02/idUS159078+02-Feb-2009+PRN20090202" target="_hplink">smaller risk of dying</a> than sedentary men -- but swimmers also had a lower mortality rate than <a href="http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/swim-longer-life" target="_hplink">men who walked and ran</a> for their exercise. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/west_point/4752428605/" target="_hplink">West Point Public Affairs</a></em>
A <a href="http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/1/50.full" target="_hplink">2011 study</a> found that people who naturally walk at a pace of one meter per second, about 2.25 mph, or faster, <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40914372/ns/health-fitness/t/walk-faster-you-just-might-live-longer/#.T6f8JZ9Ytdo" target="_hplink">lived longer than their slower peers</a>. But walking pace might be more of an <em>indicator</em> of longevity rather than a way to increase it, the study's author cautioned. "Your body chooses the walking speed that is best for you, and that is your speed, your health indicator," lead researcher Dr. Stephanie Studenski told MyHealthNewsDaily. "Going out and walking faster does not necessarily mean you will suddenly live longer," she said. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/29143375@N05/4012888936/" target="_hplink">Justin Scott Campbell</a></em>
Some think to get the full benefit of a good workout, you need to be sweating for a full 30 minutes -- or longer. But with so many people struggling to find a spare 30 minutes, researchers have begun to investigate if a shorter sweat session could be just as good. A 2011 study found when compared to sedentary people, <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60749-6/abstract" target="_hplink">15 minutes of daily activity</a>, like brisk walking, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/15/us-exercise-taiwan-idUSTRE77E69L20110815 " target="_hplink">added three years to life expectancy</a>, according to Reuters. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/3616976712/" target="_hplink">lululemon athletica</a></em>
Walking faster, cycling harder -- there's an underlying theme to many of the benefits of exercise: <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7707624" target="_hplink">intensity</a>. Overall, <a href="http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/273/15/1179.short" target="_hplink">vigorous activities</a> seem to have more life-lengthening powers than nonvigorous activities, according to a 1995 study. In fact, <a href="http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/165/20/2355" target="_hplink">intense exercise may double the years added</a> by moderate exercise, according to a 2005 study. Five days a week of walking for 30 minutes led to 1.3 to 1.5 additional years, <em>The Washington Post</em> reported, but intense exercise, like running half an hour five days a week, resulted in <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/14/AR2005111401051.html" target="_hplink">3.5 to 3.7 extra years</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankjuarez/2334732010/" target="_hplink">frankjuarez</a></em>
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