— We all know it is important to exercise, but we tend to forget just how many benefits can be gained by even modest amounts of physical activity.

Millions of people suffer with conditions that can be prevented or greatly improved with regular physical activity. Exercise helps with osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and is a critical part of weight control. Physical activity has been proven to help relieve stress, anxiety and depression, lower total cholesterol, raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.

Fully understanding the many benefits that await you through healthy lifestyle choices is the key to improving your overall wellness and quality of life.

By far, the most important muscle to keep healthy is your heart. In one study of participants who engaged in frequent vigorous exercise, Harvard researchers found up to a 20 percent reduction of heart disease risk.

Those who walked three miles or more a week experienced a 10 percent reduction. The amount of activity each of us needs varies, and depends on factors such as current state of health, age and personal goals and objectives.

Exercise is necessary for building valuable bone and muscle tissue. Without regular use, muscles atrophy and bones weaken at a faster rate, leaving us at higher risk for fractures and other injuries.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to begin exercising. No matter what your age, by making an effort to stay active you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor down the road, not to mention making everyday tasks easier to manage.

Regular physical activity can help to manage diabetes. Individuals with diabetes who exercise for at least 30 minutes each day have better glucose control and a much lower risk of complications from cardiovascular disease than those who are inactive.

Do you know your blood pressure numbers? According to the American Heart Association, nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure.

One of the main contributors to developing high blood pressure is being overweight. Daily exercise such as brisk walking can help significantly, burning extra calories and increasing endurance and stamina. Increase duration, frequency or intensity over time as you become stronger.

People who exercise regularly report feeling significantly better both physically and mentally than when they weren’t active.

When you are up and moving, your body’s chemistry changes, which in turn fights fatigue, helps you to manage stress and improves mood. Staying healthy also increases your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, leading to increased productivity throughout the day.

To be safe, especially if you are unaccustomed to being active, are overweight or have a pre-existing medical condition, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or changing your diet.