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In mythological times, there lived a monster whose very gaze could turn you to stone. If you dared to enter into a staring contest with Medusa, you didn't move a whole lot afterward.

In today's world, there is a different kind of monster prowling about. It doesn't have snakes on its head or anything quite so obvious, but it is far more dangerous _ preying on people of all ages, shapes and sizes. In fact, it holds millions of people in the United States in its grip.

It is called physical inactivity, and it has great power. When it's done with you, you will feel like you've turned to stone.

Less than 10 percent of America's 270 million people exercise regularly and as many as 25 percent _ some 65 million people _ almost is entirely sedentary. The United States is an out-of-shape nation, losing billions of dollars with health problems that exercise would help prevent.

But there's hope for those who wish to break out of this lethargic trap. Joining the ranks of the physically active isn't as tough as you might think. If you join, you will decrease risks of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity; strengthen muscles and bones; and improve overall mental health.

Think of it this way: There are 10,080 minutes in a week. If you can find time to be physically active just 90 minutes (giving you 9,990 to laze around), then experts say you will reap benefits that may surprise you.

Amazing, isn't it? Just 90 minutes spread over seven days _ less than 13 minutes per day _ can have a positive effect on your physical and mental health.

You don't have to join a gym or buy expensive exercise equipment. Any kind of physical activity that puts stress on your body _ walking, climbing stairs, pushing a vacuum cleaner, gardening, mowing the yard _ counts toward your 90-minute total.

"Just do something," says Dr. Diane Jones of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "You don't have to think of it as exercise. Think of it as moving-about behavior."