Several scientific studies have demonstrated that exercise is not only good for your short-term health, overall mood and well-being, but also that it can also help you live a significantly longer and healthier life. While this may seem obvious to many, a recent study found that even when accounting for factors such as weight and blood pressure, exercise was still found to be an independent factor associated with a longer life. In other words, even if you are suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol or if you are overweight, exercising regularly will still increase your life span.

Evidence also suggests that moderate, rather than strenuous, exercise is enough to have a significant effect on your life expectancy. Jogging between one to two-and-a-half hours every week can increase your life span by up to six years, and walking regularly has been demonstrated to be associated with a longer life.

This phenomenon can be explained by a number of reasons:

1. Exercise Improves Your Heart Health

Physical exercise is associated with countless benefits for your cardiovascular system. Not only does it result in lowered blood pressure and triglyceride and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels, but it can also improve the proportion of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and strengthen the heart muscle. Numerous studies have also shown that exercise-based rehabilitation programs in patients with chronic heart disease or who have suffered a heart attack greatly reduce the risk of dying from heart disease. (1)

2. Exercise Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels

Physical exercise can improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and help stabilize your blood sugar levels. This is especially important for people with or at risk of developing diabetes. It has been reported that even just walking two-and-a-half hours every week can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by up to 30 percent. (2)

3. Exercise Keeps Your Bones Strong

With older age, your bones will begin to lose mass and density, which is inevitably associated with a higher risk of developing fractures. Depending on the location of the break, this may influence your overall health and longevity. Physical exercise, especially weight-bearing exercises, can help slow the loss of bone mass as well as strengthen the muscles that support your bones and joints, thereby reducing the risk of fractures. Moreover, losing weight secondary to exercise may further help reduce the risk of joint and knee problems. (3)

4. Exercise Keeps Your Mind Sharp

Aside from the temporary benefits to your mind and well-being, exercise may also be beneficial to your long-term brain health by reducing the risk of stroke and potentially dementia. This can be largely attributed to the fact that exercise increases the blood flow your entire body, including the brain. (4)

5. Exercise Can Boost Your Immune System

It is not fully clear how exercising can boost your immune system, but exercise increases your blood flow (and thereby the rate at which antibodies and white blood cells are transported throughout the body) and certain pathogens may be excreted from the body when sweating. The increased body temperature caused by exercising helps fight infection, and exercise helps reduce the levels of stress hormones, which in turn is associated with a lower risk of getting sick. (5)

6. Exercise Lowers the Risks of Certain Cancers

There is some evidence that exercise may also reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as colon, lung, breast and endometrial cancers. There are various theories for this observation, including the boost to the immune system discussed above, the fact that exercise results in reduced body weight and the fact that exercise can reduce inflammation and the levels of various hormones. (6)

If you have heavy, tired or restless legs due to vein conditions or venous insufficiency you may not feel like exercising, but it will help. Plus, exercise improves your mood by releasing endorphins, boosting your energy, improving sleep and reducing the risk of a number of other conditions like varicose veins and osteoarthritis, just to name a few.