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Experts say you should choose exercises that best fit your schedule. Studio Taurus/Stocksy United
  • Researchers say adding just 10 minutes of exercise a day can provide significant health benefits.
  • Experts say exercise is more important as a person gets older because it can slow down the effects of aging.
  • They say you should pick a type of exercise that best fits your schedule.
  • You can also start with a small amount and build that up over time.

People in the United States average about 5 hours of free time daily, with men tending to have more of it than women.

However, those hours can get quickly overtaken by life’s necessities, leaving less time for exercise.

But almost anyone can find an extra 10 minutes in their day to exercise. And that might be enough to prolong your life, a new study suggests.

Researchers said that if adults ages 40 to 85 engaged in just 10 additional minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, it would save 110,000 deaths a year.

Not that you have to stop at 10 minutes.

If the same groups increased their exercise by 20 minutes, it could save 209,459 lives, and 30 minutes could prevent 272,297 deaths, the researchers reported.

“We have known that regular exercise is essential and has tremendous health benefits,” said Dr. Vanita Rahman, clinic director of the Barnard Medical Center at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine.

“What is unique about the study is that it shows us just how beneficial exercise is by providing quantitative measures,” she said.

“Regular exercise benefits virtually every organ system in our body. It reduces blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Exercise can also help us sleep better and improve our mood, sense of well-being, and quality of life,” Rahman told Healthline.

Regular exercise can also protect us against the natural physical effects of aging.

“In our 30s, we all begin experiencing some level of age-related muscle loss called sarcopenia,” Dr. Danine Fruge, medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, told Healthline.

“If we are active daily, we lose less, but if we are inactive, we can lose on average 3 to 5 percent of our muscle mass per decade,” Fruge said. “Maintaining a healthy muscle mass for our age is key for preventing falls and unhealthy bodies as well as increasing both qualities of life and longevity.”

Getting over the mental barrier of “needing” a full 30 minutes to work out can be an important one.

Experts say the study supports that notion.

“What happens often is that people become so focused on needing 30 minutes of movement each day that if they can’t dedicate a full 30 for any reason (as opposed to breaking it up throughout the day into 10-minute increments, for example), they’ll end up doing nothing,” Dana Ryan, PhD, director of Sport Performance and Education at Herbalife Nutrition, told Healthline.

“This study linking movement and longevity is a good reminder that some type of exercise or functional movement throughout your day is still always better than doing nothing,” Ryan added.

Dr. Tina Gupta, a health coach and ACE-certified fitness nutrition expert, agreed.

“Ten minutes per day seems nominal,” she told Healthline. “But over a span of a year, it adds up to [a lot more] hours of exercise.”

So you’ve committed to moving more and living longer, but where to start?

The most important thing is to find what works best for your schedule and start small, according to Ryan.

“Small changes can make a big difference, so don’t stress about changing your habits all at once,” she said.

“Simple things like choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator, taking some work calls during a walk, and, if possible, scheduling a few 5- to 10-minute breaks in your day to do some simple exercises like jogging in place or squats can help you increase your activity enough to reap those benefits that help your body function optimally for better longevity,” Ryan explained.

And if you need something more structured, try this 10-minute morning workout to start your day and get the blood pumping.