Everyone’s made excuses for skipping exercise. It’s too cold outside, you’re too busy or you’re just too tired to get out of bed.

But it’s important to make exercise a priority. Besides helping you lose any extra pounds, regular exercise can do your body and mind a world of good.

Take heart health, for instance. A brisk walk for a half hour a day on most days can help keep cholesterol levels in check. It also can help protect you from high blood pressure, another heart disease risk factor. Researchers have found that people who exercise four hours a week outside of work can lower their chances of developing high blood pressure by almost 20 percent.

Exercise helps with sleep, too. One poll found that people who get regular exercise also get a good night’s sleep more often than those who don’t exercise.

Moving also is a mood booster. A University of Toronto study found that moderate daily exercise can help prevent depression.

A key to sticking with exercise is doing something you enjoy. Walking, biking or even running around with the kids in the yard can get your heart pumping. Just remember to talk to your doctor before jumping into an exercise program.

Once you get the OK, start right away. Making exercise a regular part of your day will make it easier to stick with it in the long run.