Health Benefits of Exercise

Every year, the evidence becomes more convincing: regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to extend and improve the quality of your life.

The health benefits of exercise impact your body from head to toe. By exercising at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week, you can dramatically lower your risk of disease and injury. Exercise also helps improve your emotional health.

5 Health Benefits of Exercise

It is impossible to fully calculate the health payoff of a few weekly hours at the gym, in the pool or on the field. However, if you need a little extra motivation to get active, consider the following five health benefits of regular exercise:

  1. Strengthens and protects your heart and lungs. Exercise provides numerous benefits to the heart. It lowers levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, reducing the risk of blockages (plaques) in your arteries that can lead to heart ailments. Exercise also reduces high blood pressure.Regular workouts help build your lung capacity, which improves your body’s ability to use oxygen. As heart and lung function becomes more efficient, blood travels more easily through the body. This helps you feel a higher level of energy.
  2. Increases muscular strength and joint flexibility. Strength-training exercises build muscle tissue, boosting your overall strength and making it easier to do everything from controlling your dog as he strains at the leash to lifting baggage into the overhead bin of an airplane. In addition, exercise increases the flexibility of your joints, making them less likely to become injured.
  3. Promotes weight loss. Exercise burns calories. Most people who are overweight will shed pounds if the amount of calories they expend exceeds the amount of calories they take in while eating. People who are not overweight will better maintain their healthy weight level even as they age and their metabolism begins to slow.Maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial to reducing the risk of many illnesses and conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition, a slimmer body frame reduces the pressure on bones and joints and reduces the risk of osteoarthritis.
  4. Improves mood and reduces stress. When you exercise, the body releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins. The release of these chemicals helps reduce pain, relieves stress and gives you a sense of overall well-being. Exercise also activates the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which help relieve depression.
  5. Builds and maintains strong bones.  Weight-bearing exercise builds and strengthens bones. This can help ward off osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones that occurs in many women after menopause and in some men as they age.Strength training exercises and weight-bearing activities can best build bone mass. Examples of weight-bearing activities include walking, running or jogging; skiing; weight-lifting; basketball and aerobic activities such as dancing.Older adults without a previous history of regular exercise can still increase bone density through exercise.

Exercise also boosts your emotional health in other ways. For example, a person who becomes fit is likely to have a stronger self-image.

Use It or Lose It

According to a 1990 CDC study, lack of exercise and poor diet accounts for about 14 percent of all deaths every year, making this combination the biggest lifestyle-related killer of Americans aside from smoking.
Failure to exercise can be directly linked to higher risk of coronary artery diseasecolon cancer, and type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. People who are regularly active sharply reduce these risks.

However, you must continue to exercise throughout your lifetime to maintain these benefits. Within months of stopping exercise, nearly all of the health benefits of exercise disappear.Even professional athletes fail to maintain any of the long-term benefits of exercise unless they continue to remain active. Therefore, it is important to view exercise as an ongoing, long-term investment in better health.