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When the weather starts getting brisk and forecasts of snow are on the horizon, I start feeling like it’s time to curl up on the couch with a good book instead of hitting the gym or the pavement. But as much as I’d like to succumb to temptation, I know that’s a dangerous path to follow. One day off turns into two and before I know it, the scale is no longer my friend. When I start feeling a rut coming on, I like to remind myself of all the reasons I exercise. And sometimes, like today for example, I even find new reasons. Just when I thought exercise couldn’t get any better for my health, science surprises me with a new study.

This one was published in the October issue of Neurology. The study found that people who are in the habit of doing physical exercise experience less brain shrinkage, as evidenced by an MRI scan, than those who exercise mentally, but not physically. If curling up with a book instead of going for a jog may mean that my brain will shrink faster, I’ll be reaching for my running shoes.

A few more reasons to clear off that exercise equipment:

  1. Exercise may help you live longer. According to a 1997 Annals of Epidemiology study, participants who exercised regularly were less likely to die prematurely.
  2. Exercise can improve your quality of life. A 2005 Current Opinion in Psychiatry review suggests that people who add physical activity to their daily routine may experience better health outcomes, including better health-related quality of life, better functional capacity and better mood.
  3. Exercise can help control your weight. You probably knew this one already, but it certainly warrants a mention. A healthy diet and regular exercise program are the first things I recommend to anyone trying to lose weight.
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