PINE BLUFF, Ark. – We hear “Get Moving” frequently, from the former First Lady to family physicians, but why? “You have probably heard that physical activity may help keep weight off, but there are other reasons physical activity is so important,” Dr. Janette R. Wheat, Cooperative Extension Program specialist and associate professor of human development and family studies at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said.

More than 30 million Americans are diabetic, and another 84 million are classified as prediabetic which puts them at risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a July 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Dr. Wheat. Regular physical activity helps prevent type 2 diabetes. And, if you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, staying active helps control blood sugar levels.

In addition to helping control diabetes, being active, according to the same report, lowers the risk of heart disease or stroke and dying early from these diseases. Regular physical activity may also lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, she said. The CDC says that people who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.

As a result of lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, diabetes complications, heart disease, stroke, and some cancer risks, moving more can result in having more money in your pocket, Dr. Wheat said. The U.S. spends $117 billion on health care annually associated with levels of low activity.

Physically active people tend to take fewer sick days. Some workplace wellness programs offer a gym membership or outdoor walking paths.

Doing aerobics, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening physical activities of at least moderate intensity can slow the loss of bone density. Being physically active can also help with arthritic pain and reduce the risk of hip fracture, according to the CDC. Regular physical activity can keep thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp and delay the decline of these skills.

Kids benefit from activity, too. Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, brain function and classroom behavior, Dr. Wheat reminds parents.

How much more should we move, and what type of movement is recommended? Try to incorporate a 30 minute brisk walk, weight training, and/or a 15-minute jog in your daily schedule, suggests Dr. Wheat. Be sure to pick activities that are enjoyable and match your abilities and those of your children, too, she advises.

Also, incorporate physical activities during early morning hours or late in the evening to avoid the extreme dangers of overheating during hot summer temperatures.

But, she cautions, although moderate activity is safe for most people, talk with your doctor first about the types and amounts of activity that are right for you especially if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes or other symptoms.