Women who walk briskly 30 minutes or more, five days out of seven -- a total of two and a half hours a week -- substantially reduce their risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, diabetes, and colon and breast cancers, according to Dr. Fein. Just by keeping your blood pressure and resting heart rate lower, you can add four years to your life through exercise.
What's brisk? You should feel just slightly out of breath. If you think you're too busy, break it up into 10- to 15-minute chunks -- you'll get the same health benefits. More tips:
Work up to it. The key is to make exercise a lifelong habit, not to look for quick body-changing results.
Focus on "now" benefits. You'll reduce stress, feel a mild mood boost, and sleep better.
Write down your goals. Keeping a log with specific aims -- "Walk 20 minutes with the baby in the stroller every morning this week at 8 a.m." -- helps turn activity into a habit.
Count steps. Pedometers, especially simple step counters ($12 to $30), make it fun. Aim -- eventually -- for 10,000 steps in a 24-hour period. (You can do it!)
"I feel great after our walks," says Kathryn Kalabokes, who walks from a half hour to an hour with her 11-year-old son each afternoon when she picks him up from school. She started when he was a baby, pushing the stroller every day when the weather was good. And it has become an important part of their lives -- especially now, since she works in a real estate office by day and is studying for a master's in education at night. "With everything that's going on in our lives, our walks are a great time to talk and catch up on our days," she says.