5 Benefits of Regular Exercise for Your Body and Mind

Health & Wellness

Exercise benefits your mental and physical health in a variety of ways, including helping you live a longer, healthier life.

Last updated: 27 July 2022
5 min read
What Are the Health Benefits of Exercise?

Few things make as big an impact on your health as exercise.

'If exercise could be bottled up into pill form, it would be the most widely prescribed drug in the world for the numerous health benefits it has', says Todd Buckingham, Ph.D., the lead exercise physiologist at Mary Free Bed Sports Rehabilitation.

To back that up, here are the science-backed health benefits of regular exercise. So, if physical activity isn't already part of your lifestyle, you may want to remedy that—ASAP.

  1. 1.Can Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women worldwide, accounting for about 16 percent of deaths globally each year. Engaging in regular aerobic exercise is one of the best things that you can do to keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of chronic health conditions.

    In fact, a July 2009 study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that physical activity slashed participants' risk of heart disease by as much as 50 percent.

    'Your heart is a muscle just like the other muscles in your body', says Buckingham. 'If you exercise your heart on a regular basis, it will become stronger.' A strong heart can pump more blood with each beat, which means it doesn't have to work as hard.

    This puts less force on the arteries, resulting in lower blood pressure, Buckingham says. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range (less than 120/80mm Hg) is vital for preventing heart disease and related health emergencies, such as heart attack and stroke.

  2. 2.Helps Keep You Healthy With Age

    Exercise is a must for healthy ageing. If you aren't active, you can expect to lose muscle mass at a rate of 3 to 8 percent per decade beginning at age 30, according to a January 2010 study in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. The rate jumps more dramatically after age 60.

    This natural loss of muscle with age is known as sarcopenia, and it can have severe consequences for older adults.

    'Strength training is particularly important as we get older because strengthening the muscles can decrease the risk of falls', Buckingham says. According to the CDC, falls are one of the most severe causes of injury and death among adults aged 65 and older.

    Strong muscles not only help you avoid falls, but they also help you do daily activities like climb stairs, get in and out of chairs, lift groceries and open doors. Being able to do these things by yourself is key for staying independent as you age.

    Weight-bearing exercises like strength training are also essential for improving bone strength, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

    'Weight-bearing exercise puts an up-and-down force on your spine, and that's what triggers the process of building bone', says Brendan Kirk, DPT, CSCS, a board-certified orthopaedic specialist at SportsMed Physical Therapy.

    Besides resistance training, other exercises to build bone density include jogging, yoga, climbing stairs and playing tennis, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  3. 3.Aids in Reaching and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

    Your first priority when trying to lose or maintain weight should be making healthy food choices. However, regular exercise burns more calories in a day, which can help you manage your weight over time.

    Losing weight can be beneficial for preventing type 2 diabetes, a disease that occurs when the blood sugar gets too high. For those who are overweight or obese, losing 5 to 7 percent of current body weight can help prevent or delay diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
  4. 4.Can Boost Mood and Brain Health

    'Not only does physical activity play a role in our physical health, but it also has tremendous benefits to our brains', Buckingham says. Exercise helps promote learning and memory, which is critical for preventing brain disorders like dementia, he says.

    In fact, the more exercise you get, the less likely you are to develop a common form of dementia known as Alzheimer's, according to a September 2018 review in Brain Plasticity.

    Exercise also releases mood-boosting brain chemicals known as endorphins and helps distract you from worries. This may help ease depression and anxiety, notes the Mayo Clinic.
  5. 5.May Strengthen the Immune System

    In the right dose, exercise may help strengthen your immune system in the fight against infections. In fact, a March 2021 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who exercised regularly had fewer COVID-19 complications than those who were inactive.

    Exercise not only helps immune cells circulate through your body, it also strengthens their surveillance abilities, according to a May 2019 review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science. This may help your immune system identify and rid your body of harmful pathogens more quickly.

    However, as with most things, moderation is key. Too much exercise can actually weaken your immune system and increase your risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection like the flu, says Buckingham.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Health Benefits of Regular Exercise?
Several proven benefits of regular exercise include a reduced risk of chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's and osteoporosis; strengthened immune function; improved mood; and reduced risk of falling. Regular exercise may also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight when paired with a healthy diet.
How Long Does It Take to See Benefits From Exercise?
You can experience mental and emotional benefits almost immediately after starting an exercise programme. However, it may take several weeks to notice any physical benefits like increased strength, muscle and fitness.

For example, muscles typically increase in size after 8 to 10 weeks of regular strength training. However, you'll likely notice strength gains after just a couple of weeks, Buckingham says. Benefits from aerobic exercise can be seen in just one week.
How Much Exercise Does It Take to See Benefits?
Any amount of exercise is better than none. But the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (about 30 minutes, 5 days a week) and two full-body strength workouts per week.
What Are the Health Benefits of Exercise?

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Originally published: 14 January 2022

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