This time of year many people resolve to eat healthier and exercise more.
While it can be challenging to carry out a New Year's resolution, being more active is something we should all aim to do in 2015.
According to the 2014 American Heart Association Annual Statistical Update Report, one in every three U.S. adults — 31 percent — reports participating in no leisure time physical activity. That means roughly one-third of adults aren't exercising at the level recommended for maintaining good health.
The statistics aren't much better for children. The report shows that among students in grades 9-12, only about 27 percent meet the American Heart Association recommendation of 60 minutes of exercise every day.
Good health is the best reason to get moving. There are both long- and short-term benefits to exercise, and even some that are particularly important during the winter months.
The more physical activity you do, the greater the benefits to your health. Working out can increase your energy levels, improve your life expectancy, help you sleep better at night, keep your bones and muscles strong, lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases.
In older adults, studies have shown that regular physical activity can also reduce their risk of vascular-related dementia by 40 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity (like brisk walking, riding a bike or running) each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week that work all muscle groups.
While 150 minutes may sound like a lot of time, it can be spread out throughout the week and broken down into smaller amounts of time as little as 10 minutes.
There are lots of ways to accommodate exercise. You can save the last 10 minutes of your lunch break for quick, 10-minute walk outside, go for a 10-minute run just before dinner or first thing in the morning before starting your day. If you work indoors at a sedentary job, set a reminder on your calendar to get up and move every hour.
You can judge the intensity of your activity by how much you can multi-task. For example, during moderate activities you should be able to talk, but be too active to sing. During vigorous activities, you should only able to say a few words before stopping to catch your breath.
In particular during the cold winter months, exercise can also help boost your mood and reduce stress. As the body works to stay warm, it also increases the amount of endorphins it produces, which trigger positive feelings in the body.
If you are beginning a new exercise routine this month, be sure to start slow and avoid overdoing it. If you have not exercised for an extended period of time, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about any possible concerns before you begin a new routine.