We now know that losing weight is more about how much we eat than how much we sweat—but that’s no reason to say goodbye to the gym. Exercise is still one of the absolute best things you can do for your health and well-being. Here’s why:

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It can make your glass half full
Even 15 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise can boost positive emotions. One possible reason: Physical activity may prompt your brain to produce serotonin and norepinephrine, feel-good chemicals whose levels are increased by some antidepressants. In fact, studies have found that consistent aerobic exercise can be just as powerful as these meds.

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It makes you feel smarter
A new study found that working out four hours after learning something can help you hold on to that info. Scientists think this is because exercise increases catecholamines, chemicals that can improve memory consolidation. Regular sweat sessions also lower your risk of developing dementia.

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It can give you a second wind
Research shows that sedentary people who begin to follow an exercise program feel more energetic. One study found that those who got at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week were 65 percent less likely to feel sleepy during the day.

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It can help you sleep better
A small 2010 study found that for older adults who had trouble snoozing, a 16-week program that involved regular aerobic exercise (and learning about good sleep hygiene) helped them gain an extra 75 minutes of shut-eye per night on average. Another study looked at sedentary insomniacs and found that a six-month exercise program allowed them to doze off faster, perhaps because regular exercise increases production of human growth hormone, which has been linked to sleep.

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It could add years to your life
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity over five days or 75 minutes of vigorous activity over three. People who follow these guidelines have a 10 percent lower risk of heart failure than sedentary folks, and those who exercise twice as much have a nearly 20 percent lower risk. Getting physical lowers blood pressure, makes arteries more elastic, helps you use oxygen more efficiently, and increases levels of good cholesterol. Let’s get moving!

Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings).

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