Of all the things we can do to improve our health—nutritious diet, sufficient sleep, vitamin supplements, or education—exercise is probably the most effective. Exercise helps control weight, combats disease, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes sleep, can be fun, and even improves our sex lives. Active people are much less likely to smoke; they’re thinner and they eat differently than their sedentary peers. They also tend to be more educated, and education is one of the strongest predictors of good health and a longer life. Exercise benefits everyone, regardless of age, gender, physical ability or overall health.
By contrast, as many as 250,000 deaths per year in the United States are attributable to a lack of regular physical activity. In addition, studies that followed large groups of individuals for many years have documented the protective effects of physical activity for a number of noncardiovascular chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), osteoporosis, and colon cancer.