Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle choices that significantly impact your health and adds years to your life. Being physically active has amazing benefits not only in preventing many chronic diseases but also aids in treating them. Benefits of physical fitness include improvement of brain health and cognition, weight management, strengthening your muscles and bones, improving your balance, increasing your ability to perform physical activities, improving sleep quality, reducing the risk, and treating many diseases and cancers. Exercise is the best medicine!
Age, ability, shape, size, sex, and ethnicity do not matter. Everyone can experience the health benefits of physical fitness, even prenatally – yes, maternal exercise during pregnancy increases the baby’s blood supply resulting in increased cognition early in life and reduced chronic diseases later. Yet, nearly 80% of Americans do not meet the US guidelines for physical activity.
Yet, nearly 80% of Americans do not meet the US guidelines for physical activity.
Kids should have at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity that includes aerobic, muscle, and bone-strengthening.
Adults should have 30 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic activity and at least two days a week of muscle strengthening.
Immediate Health Benefits of Exercise:
One of the unknown benefits of physical fitness and activity is an instant improvement of your brain health. After moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, children 6-13 have improved thinking or cognition and reduced short-term feelings of anxiety for adults. Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety and help you sleep better.
Habitual Health Benefits of Exercise:
Those who regularly exercise so that physical activity becomes a way of life see numerous benefits to physical fitness that include: stable weight, stronger muscles and bones, fewer chronic diseases and cancers, improvements in long-term anxiety and deep sleep, and an increased ability to plan, organize, and control emotions. There are numerous positive effects of exercise on the body. Sit less and move more!
Reasons Why Exercise is Important:
Decreased risk of chronic disease
Exercise during pregnancy decreases the risk of chronic disease for both mother and child. Maternal exercise also increases the baby’s cognition. Children with active mothers have slightly higher IQs (5 points) at 48 months and may also have a reduced risk of diabetes and hypertension later in life. Moms who exercise while pregnant experience fewer musculoskeletal discomforts and depressive symptoms. They also keep their weight gain within normal ranges and have lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels than moms who do not exercise.
Improved bone health and weight status
Improved agility and balance
Improved cognitive function (performance on academic achievement tests, executive function, processing speed, and memory)
Reduced risk of depression
Reduced depressed mood
Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
Improved bone health
Improved weight status or adiposity
Fewer symptoms of depression
Lower risk of all-cause mortality
Lower cardiovascular problems and mortality (including heart disease and stroke)
Lower incidence of hypertension (high blood pressure)
Lower incidence of type 2 diabetes
Cancer – Lower incidence of bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung cancers
Reduced risk of dementia
Improved cognitive function overall and also notably following bouts of aerobic activity
Improved quality of life
Improved sleep (quality, reduced daytime sleepiness, frequency of use of medication to aid sleep)
Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression in healthy people and in people with existing medical issues
Reduced incidences of depression
Reduced long-term feelings and signs of anxiety (trait anxiety) for people with and without anxiety disorders
Reduced risk of excessive weight gain
Weight loss and the prevention of weight regain following initial weight loss
Less pain, more motion.
Improved functional ability
Better posture and younger appearance
Falls – Reduced incidence of falls and fall-related injuries
Improved ability to perform daily activities
Able to stay independent longer
Less pain, more motion.
Improved functional ability
Better posture and younger appearance
Individuals with pre-existing Medical Conditions:
Reduced All-cause mortality
Reduced Breast Cancer – all-cause and mortality
Reduced Colorectal cancer – all-cause and mortality
Reduced Prostate cancer – reduced mortality
Osteoarthritis – Decrease pain and improved function and quality of life
Hypertension – Reduced risk of progression of cardiovascular disease and increased blood pressure over time
Type 2 diabetes – Reduced progression of disease indicators: hemoglobin A1c, blood pressure, blood lipids, and body mass index
Multiple sclerosis – Improved walking and physical fitness
Dementia – Improved cognition
Some conditions with impaired executive function – Improved cognition
General Health Benefits of Exercise:
1. Weight Management
Physical activity plays a critical role in weight management along with your eating patterns. You gain weight when you eat and drink more calories than you burn. To lose weight, you need to consume less and exercise more. A high amount of physical activity is required to lose weight unless you also adjust your eating patterns. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires regular physical activity and healthy eating.
2. Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles
Having strong muscles and bones is essential to your ability to move and function. As babies and toddlers, it is critical to improving your strength to establish a foundation, and as you age, it’s essential to maintain your strength to keep moving. Contrary to popular belief, inactivity increases your chances of developing musculoskeletal discomfort and arthritis. As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” If you sit on a couch all day, your muscles shrivel up, and your body will also start to pull calcium from your bones, making your bones weaker. On the other hand, if you walk or run, the benefits of physical fitness cause your muscles to get stronger, and so do your bones and joints in response to the pounding on the ground.
3. Fountain of Youth
Stronger muscles and bones improve your posture. Effects of exercise on the body are also good for your skin and cardiovascular health giving you a more youthful appearance.
4. Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease and stroke are two leading causes of death in the United States. Physical activity strengthens the heart, the most important muscle in the body. A stronger heart pumps out more blood with each beat. The benefits of physical fitness and regular activity also include lowering your blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels.
5. Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
6. Some Cancers
Being physically active lowers your risk of developing several cancers. Those who participate in greater amounts of physical activity have reduced risks of developing cancers of the:
- Colon (proximal and distal)
- Esophagus (adenocarcinoma)
- Stomach (cardia and non-cardia adenocarcinoma)
Cancer patients who exercise have better treatment outcomes and survival rates. Oncology providers recommend aerobic and resistance exercises to help mitigate the side effects of treatments. Effects of exercises on the body include: reducing fatigue during active treatment and preserving cardiorespiratory fitness, physical functioning, and strength. Exercise has a low risk for side effects and adverse events and may also improve quality of life and reduce anxiety and depression during treatments. If you are a cancer survivor, getting regular physical activity helps give you a better quality of life and improves your physical fitness.
7. Improve Your Ability to do Daily Activities
Physically active adults have a lower risk of functional limitations than those that are inactive. Being physically active allows you to play ball with your kids/grandchildren and stay independent longer. There are numerous benefits of physical fitness and the ability to do your daily activities is one of the reasons why exercise is important. Simple things like opening a jar, climbing stairs, and running to catch a train become difficult with inactivity.
8. Prevent Falls in Seniors
It is very important that seniors stay active by doing a variety of physical activities to reduce their risk of falls. Too often seniors are cautious and avoid challenging their balance, this leads to weakening muscles and reduced proprioception. A slight stumble then perpetuates a vicious cycle of fear and fear avoidance that will further advance weakness and increase their fall risk. Falls have significant consequences and usually lead to injuries such as a hip fracture. The health benefits of exercise for seniors are essential for them to stay active and avoid falls. It is critical that seniors include physical activities such as aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance training to improve their strength and balance and minimize their fear of falling.