A little bit of exercise can go a very long way

I can't see you, but I know you're about to give me "that look."

It's the look I get every day from patients when I tell them that exercise is almost as important as diet -- a look that says "UGH!" without actually saying it out loud.

You'd think I was sentencing people to hard labor instead of the fun and rewarding pastimes that exercise can be -- but while it's true that finding time for exercise can be challenging, it doesn't have to be difficult or even painful.

All it means is getting some movement each day -- and according to one new study, it doesn't have to be strenuous at all. In fact, it might be better if it's not.

The study looked at the running and jogging habits of 1,116 men and 762 women, asking them how long and fast they ran each week.

Those with regular jogging habits were happier, overall. But much more importantly, they lived longer -- about 6.2 years longer on average for men and 5.6 years longer for women.

But what's most telling of all here is that it didn't take much to get that life-extending benefit, just a slow-to-average pace for an hour or two a week. That's just 10 or 15 minutes a day.

Even a "power walk" through the local park could count as a slow jog.

Those who did more serious -- and more strenuous -- running, on the other hand, didn't get a bigger benefit. In fact, they didn't live as long as the moderate-to-light jogging crowd.

In other words, "all things in moderation," as the old saying goes, and another new study shows how older women in particular can benefit.

This one looked at more than 700 women in their 70s, and found that those who got regular exercise such as an easy walk around the block had a 71 percent lower risk of death during the five-year study when compared to sedentary women.

The same study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also measured blood levels of carotenoids. Those are the healthy pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, and higher levels are a good sign.

And those who had the highest levels -- those who ate the most fruit and veggies -- had a 46 percent lower risk of death than those with the lowest.

If you want the biggest benefit of all (by far), don't pick one or the other, because the study also found that women who ate their fruits and veggies AND got that little bit of exercise were 800 percent more likely to live through the five-year study.

The study didn't look at men, but you really can't go wrong with eating better and getting more movement whether you're a man or a woman -- and that's true no matter how old (or young) you are.

But if all that's not enough of a reason to get moving, consider one other new study that found a benefit some people might find even more enticing than a longer, happier life: People who exercise earn an average of 9 percent more than people who don't.

Good health isn't always the best motivator. But money? For some, that one works wonders.