exercise for 20s

Left: Andrew Rich/istockphoto / Right: Jacob Ammentorp Lund

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Decade: 20s

What to do: Lace up your running shoes
Why: Your current cardiovascular fitness level can help predict how healthy you'll be later. In a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine, people in their 20s did a treadmill test in which researchers gradually increased the speed and incline and tracked how long the participants could last. When the researchers followed up with the subjects years later, in midlife, they found that those who lasted at least 10 minutes had a 50 percent lower risk of death and 40 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those who could only complete 6 minutes of the test.
The Plan: The researchers recommend doing 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise (like a brisk walk that includes some hills) 5 days a week, or 25 minutes at an intensity that leaves you a little more exhausted 3 times a week.

What to do: Take up yoga
Why: Today's 20-somethings graduated into a pretty bleak job market, and they're saddled with huge amounts of student-loan debt. Not so shocking then that a sense of calm may not come easily for them. "We see a lot of students in their 20s who don't know how to relax," says Jay Gupta, a cofounder of YogaCaps, a nonprofit that works with hospitals and community organizations to teach yoga to those with chronic diseases. Chronic stress is linked to sleeplessness, depression, a weaker immune system and even digestive issues. Learning healthy ways to cope with stress will benefit you now and in the long term. Enter yoga: Research suggests that it might help regulate stress responses in the body, like elevated cortisol levels and high blood pressure.
The Plan: Gupta says practicing a little yoga every day would be ideal, but 2 sessions per week is a good start. We have a 3-pose routine to help you de-stress. If you're a yoga newbie, here are a few yoga cues that even regulars find confusing, explained.