“The First 20 Minutes” is the title of a new book by Gretchen Reynolds, a fitness columnist for The New York Times. The book asserts that for really sedentary people (approximately 2/3 of Americans), the first 20 minutes of mere brisk movement—such as a rapid walk—can have significant health and life extension benefits. Reynolds draws a strong distinction between the degree of exercise necessary for sports performance improvement and where a much lower level will yield health benefits.

While 20 minutes a day of walking or using the stairs at work will not make you truly fit, it will meaningfully lower your risk of premature death from the most common chronic diseases: diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Twenty minutes a day of movement, of mild exercise may not make you skinny but it will give you a longer, healthier life. Heck, even standing up every hour at work (or off the couch at home) and moving around a bit contributes to a better life. Humans are “born to stroll,” to move regularly, not to sit for 8 hours a day.

A big misconception about exercise is that we must sweat it out to get any benefits. Yes, that is probably best, but the message here is that there are major benefits to be gained simply by just getting out and moving briskly.

You don’t have to break a sweat to get breakthrough benefits, physical and mental. So, NO EXCUSES: Get a move on!

Closing quotes:

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”  — U.S. President John F. Kennedy

“Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.”  — Earl of Derby

“It is remarkable how one’s wits are sharpened by physical exercise.”  — Pliny the Younger