Benefits of Exercise
The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore
Posted on 23.01.2017
You know exercise is good for you, but do you know how good?
From boosting your mood to improving your sex life, find out how exercise can improve your life.
1. Exercise controls weight
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.
Regular trips to the gym are great, but don’t worry if you can’t find a large chunk of time to exercise every day. To reap the benefits of exercise, just get more active throughout your day — take the stairs instead of the elevator or rev up your household chores. Consistency is key.
2. Exercise combats health conditions and diseases
Worried about heart disease? Hoping to prevent high blood pressure? No matter what your current weight, being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Regular exercise helps prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, a number of types of cancer, arthritis and falls.
3. Exercise improves mood
Need an emotional lift? Or need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A gym session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.
4. Exercise boosts energy
Winded by grocery shopping or household chores? Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance.
Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores
5. Exercise promotes better sleep
Struggling to snooze? Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to hit the hay.
6. Exercise puts the spark back into your sex life
Do you feel too tired or too out of shape to enjoy physical intimacy? Regular physical activity can improve energy levels and physical appearance, which may boost your sex life.
But there’s even more to it than that. Regular physical activity may enhance arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don’t exercise.
7. Exercise can be fun … and social!
Exercise and physical activity can be enjoyable. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a fun social setting.
So, take a dance class, hit the hiking trails or join a soccer team. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just do it. Bored? Try something new, or do something with friends.
The bottom line on exercise
Exercise and physical activity are a great way to feel better, boost your health and have fun. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.
Try to engage in a combination of vigorous and moderate aerobic exercises, such as running, walking or swimming. Squeeze in strength training at least twice per week by lifting free weights, using weight machines or doing body weight exercises.
Space out your activities throughout the week. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to ramp up your exercise efforts.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven’t exercised for a long time, have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, or you have any concerns.
The Mayo Clinic
How to start an exercise habit, and how to keep it going.
What type of exercise, and how much?
The government tells us we should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, and preferably 300 minutes. Moderate physical activity is generally described as exercise at least as intense as brisk walking – things like swimming, household chores and mowing the lawn all count.
For instance, in Nazi Germany, the women’s organisation Frauenschaft sponsored a “Health through Housework” movement which combined household chores with Swedish gymnastics. Picture making the bed standing on one leg and you’ve pretty much got the idea.
Vigorous physical activities are those that cause you to feel puffed, and include jogging, hiking and shovelling. Vigorous physical activity counts double: just 75-150 minutes per week is enough to make sizeable health gains.
Moderate and vigorous physical activities have important benefits for health by stressing the heart system, and therefore stimulating it to adapt. In addition, they contribute to weight control through burning calories, improve mood through release of endorphins, and benefit metabolic health (warding off diseases such as diabetes and cancer) by altering hormonal, inflammatory and immune responses.
In addition to moderate and vigorous physical activity, the guidelines recommend that physical activity should include muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week. Such activities include lifting weights or heavy chores that involve carrying loads. In particular, strengthening activities have important benefits for bone health.
We used to think of physical activity in terms of leisure-time activities, like sports and fitness activities. However, health scientists now recognise that most forms of physical activity have beneficial effects. Physical activity from daily chores, or walking or cycling to get from place to place, are all helpful and offer realistic ways for people to squeeze more physical activity into their busy lifestyles.
It’s surprising how much difference a little effort can make. Imagine you decide to get off the bus a stop early, and walk the extra 500 metres to work, and then do the same on the way home. That’s an extra kilometre every day, or about 60 minutes of exercise a week.
Physical inactivity has consistently been shown to be one of the most powerful, modifiable risk factors for all causes of death and disease, alongside smoking and obesity.
The interactive body map brings together scientific evidence on the links between lack of physical activity and disease
Maybe you’ve been meaning to start but just haven’t found the right routine … or even the right exercise hack. Perhaps you’re recovering from an injury or haven’t gotten around to it. Whatever your excuse, I’m here to tell you that today is the day to start working out.
That’s because the benefits of exercise are far more than just losing weight or achieving that “bikini body.” Exercise benefits everything from your sleep quality to your energy level, and even your memory. From making you happier to helping you live longer, regular exercise is key to living a healthy, balanced life.
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