Powerful Reasons To Exercise

Some exercise is better than none; more exercise is generally better than less, and no exercise can be disastrous.

We all unconsciously know that exercise is good for us. It is fair to say that everyone wants to be healthy. At the same time, it is probably equally fair to say that most of us are not exercising enough. You can find a number of tips, tricks and hacks on how to get motivation to do just about everything, including exercising.

The main incentive that can make you start exercising is overall health improvement. But what exactly exercise can do for you? Here is the list of scientifically proven health benefits the regular exercise brings.

It is never late to begin exercising5. Regular physical activity provides benefits to men and women of all ages

1 Longevity

People who are physically active live longer. Regular exercise reduces the risk of dying prematurely 4,5.


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2 New brain cells development

Exercise stimulates the formation of new brain cells (neurons)6,7. Also, exercise strengthens connections between those cells. The areas of the brain that are stimulated through exercise are associated with memory and learning.

Researches from the Netherlands found that decline in cognitive functioning is associated with a higher mortality risk3

3 Cognitive and mental function enhancement

Physical activity improves cognitive performance, information processing and may delay cognitive impairment and dementia1,2. For instance, older adults who engage in regular physical activity have better performances in tests implying decision-making process, memory and problems solving.

And what about children? University of Illinois researchers8,9 have found that physical activity may enhance the academic achievements of children by improving their attention and working memory skills.

Lack of physical activity is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases

4 Prevention of cardiovascular disease

There is a direct relation between physical inactivity and cardiovascular death10.

Regular physical activity makes your heart, like any other muscle, stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. Regular exercise also prevents heart disease by lowering blood pressure, increasing good HDL cholesterol that transports fat away from the arteries and back to the liver for processing, reducing levels of bad LDL cholesterol that can form fatty deposits in the arteries and by preventing blood clots.

In a long-term Swedish study women and men who were physically active at least twice a week had a 41% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who performed no physical activity11.

5 Cholesterol lowering effect

Physical exercise favourably influences blood cholesterol levels by decreasing LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol12,13.

Exercise itself does not burn off cholesterol like it does with fat. Physical exercise can positively alter cholesterol metabolism by increasing the production and action of several enzymes in the muscles and liver that function to convert some of the cholesterol to a more favorable form, such as HDL-cholesterol.

6 Prevention and control of type 2 diabetes

There is strong evidence14,15 (e.g. Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study and the Diabetes Prevention Program in the USA) that moderate physical activity combined with weight loss and balanced diet can confer a 50-60% reduction in risk of developing diabetes among those already at high risk.

Regular physical activity may improve insulin resistance and glucose tolerance and is highly effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in persons with impaired glucose regulation.

7 Blood pressure lowering

The ways by which exercise can cause a reduction in blood pressure are unclear, but all forms of exercise seem to be effective in reducing blood pressure. Regular exercise decreases blood pressure in approximately 75% of hypertensive persons with an average decrease of 11 and 8 Hg mm for systolic and diastolic blood pressure respectively17.

Regular exercise may decrease blood pressure in overweight and obese persons even without changes in body weight. Aerobic exercise appears to have a slightly greater effect on blood pressure in hypertensive individuals than in individuals without hypertension.

Low physical activity increases the risk of hypertension16.

8 Prevention of neoplastic (cancer) diseases

Evidence exists that physical activity may be associated with a lower risk of several common forms of cancer, most notably colon and breast cancer18,19.

9 Reduced risk of stroke

Research data indicates that moderate and high levels of physical activity may reduce the risk of total, ischemic, and hemorrhagic strokes20.

People who have good physical function after the age of 40 may lower their risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent compared to people who are not able to climb stairs, kneel, bend, or lift as well.

10 Weight control

Regular physical activity helps to reach and maintain a healthy weight. If you take in more calories than needed in a day, exercise offsets a caloric overload and controls body weight. It speeds the rate of energy use, resulting in increased metabolism. When metabolism increases through exercise, you will maintain the faster rate for longer periods of a day.

11 Muscle strength

Health studies21 repeatedly show that strength training increases muscle strength and mass and decreases fat tissue.

12 Attractive body

With perfect body you look better in clothes and you look better naked. Exercise helps reduce body fat by building muscle mass. Both resistance and aerobic exercise improve body composition even without dieting22.

13 Bone strength

An active lifestyle benefits bone density. Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation, delays bone loss and may protect against osteoporosis (form of bone loss associated with aging)23.

14 Strong immune system

Regular moderate exercise may have a beneficial effect on the immune function. The findings from some studies support the possibility that exercise may delay immunosenescence (age dependent decline in immune function)24.

15 Better night sleep

If you suffer from poor sleep, daily exercise can make the difference. The natural dip in body temperature five to six hours after exercise may help to fall asleep. Researches from the Stanford University School of Medicine25 found that regular exercise provides improvement in general quality of sleep, quicker sleep-onset, longer sleep duration and feeling rested in the morning.

16 Better sex life

Regular exercise maintains or improves sex life. Physical improvements in muscle strength and tone, endurance, body composition and cardiovascular function can all enhance sexual functioning in both men and women. Men who exercise regularly are less likely to have erectile dysfunction and impotence than are men who don't exercise26.

17 Back pain remedy

By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise helps to prevent back pain. High quality studies27 prove that exercise is effective for recurrent low back pain.

18 Stress management

Exercise can cause release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. These chemicals give you a feeling of happiness and positively affect your overall sense of well-being.

19 Alternative to antidepressants

Study after study has shown that exercise promotes mental health and reduces symptoms of depression28,29. The antidepressant effect of regular physical exercise is comparable to the potent antidepressants.

Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve symptoms of depression. However, smaller amounts of activity (as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time) have been shown to improve mood in the short term.

Severe, exhaustive exercise, inhibits gastric emptying, interferes with gastrointestinal absorption, and may cause heartburn and gastrointestinal bleeding.

20 Gastrointestinal tract benefits

Exercise is beneficial for persons suffering from cholelithiasis and constipation. Physical activity may reduce the risk of diverticulosis, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, and inflammatory bowel disease31.

21Therapy for postmenopausal women

High-intensity exercise significantly reduces negative changes related to the menopausal transition30.

References
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Published: 2009
Last updated: February 18, 2016

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