Eat right and exercise regularly.

While most U.S. adults have probably heard these simple instructions for maintaining good health, four out of five do not meet recommended physical activity levels, which can impact their physical and mental well-being, according to a new Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) Health of America study.

Conducting the study

In the study, BCBSA compared a group of Blue Cross and Blue Shield members who exercised regularly with those who did not over a four-year period. Millennials, ages 21 to 36; Generation X, ages 37-52; and Baby Boomers, ages 53 to 64, all participated.

Why exercise matters

The study found that regular physical activity provides many health benefits and can:

  • Decrease a person’s risk of chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease by 25%.
  • Improve primary cardiovascular health risk factors, including cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index.
  • Contribute to a slower growth of behavioral health conditions. In fact, the study found that among millennials, the prevalence of major depression grew 2% slower for those who regularly exercised.
  • Lower health care costs. In the study, participants who exercised regularly spent approximately $4,438 less in health care costs over the four-year period.

In conclusion

The study proved that regular exercise over a sustained period of time has a measurable, positive impact on physical and mental health.

“These results are not surprising since the benefits of regular exercise are well-documented,” said Sarah-Lee Emanuel, manager of wellness services at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. “However, they do further highlight the importance of meeting physical activity guidelines. It’s important for children and adults to move more throughout the day.”

Adults should do at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening activity a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Examples of aerobic exercise are brisk walking and mowing the lawn; examples of strengthening activities are lifting weights and working with resistance bands.

For ideas on how to exercise regularly during quarantine, read Don’t take quarantine sitting down: How to stay fit during the pandemic.

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