I think it would be fair to say that it is widely accepted that exercising regularly is a vital component of living a healthy life. When we reflect upon how humans used to live it becomes very clear however, that more and more activities that used to require physical labor are being taken over by machines. This is not just referring to labor in terms of manufacturing or industry but also in terms of everyday activities such as spatial navigation -- the vast majority of us use cars, moving sidewalks, elevators and escalators on a daily basis. There are some good reasons for this a lot of the time, such as having to commute long distances or simply due to increasing time constraints, but this is not always the case. In many aspects, such technologies have become embraced too readily and in doing so have made many of us sedentary. Consequently, for the vast majority of us who are not competitive athletes, we must exercise to maintain an active balance.
I recently stumbled across an article that prompted my interest in discussing this topic. Here the article discusses new research that came out of Queen's University (Canada) which found "that men at age 20 were estimated to gain as much as 2.4 years of life from moderate activity. Women at age 20 gained about 3 additional years from engaging in moderate activity. The biggest benefit from physical activity was seen in non-Hispanic black women, who gained as many as 5.5 potential years of life." Where moderate activity was defined as 150 minutes of activity per week.
Though these data are important in encouraging individuals to exercise by demonstrating direct benefits that can be garnered, I am not sure whether we are approaching the problem of inactivity in the most appropriate way. Some recent data suggests for example that simply remaining inactive and then exercising may not be the most effective way to attain health benefits (rock center video). Rather, it appears that just maintaining low levels of exercise throughout the day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking/biking instead of driving for instance, represents a better method.
To be frank, to me this seems more reasonable, as it represent a more natural way in which humans were meant to use their bodies. Regardless though, it is probably safe to say that if you wish to live longer and more prosperously so, it would be wise to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.