Physical activity refers to all of the movements we make during the day, such as doing housework and shopping, walking to work, and exercising such as exercising or going to the gym. Evidence is mounting that physical activity is beneficial for both the body and mind and reduces the risk of many diseases. Here are nine proven benefits of regular physical activity.
It contributes to maintaining a healthy body weight
Little physical activity increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese. 1 While exercise alone does not necessarily lead to weight loss, it can, when combined with a balanced, calorie-controlled diet, contribute to successful weight loss. In addition, there is evidence that regular physical activity contributes to maintaining a healthy body weight over the long term 2
It lowers blood pressure
High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a risk factor for many diseases, especially stroke and heart disease. Regular physical activity can increase your heart strength, which in turn reduces the amount of effort required to pump blood around your body. This will reduce the pressure in the arteries, which will lead to a lowering of blood pressure. There is good evidence that regular physical activity helps maintain healthy blood pressure. 1, 3
It reduces the risk of heart disease
Exercising regularly, especially aerobic exercise like brisk walking, running, and cycling, has been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. 1, 3 This benefit is seen in people of all sizes. Those who are overweight or obese who are physically active are much less likely to develop heart disease than those who are inactive.
It lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes
Exercise is known to help regulate blood sugar levels and improve our body’s insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, it has been shown that physical inactivity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 1, 3 Regular exercise is also recommended for diabetics to help them control their blood sugar levels.
It reduces the risk of certain types of cancer
Cancer is a complex disease that is influenced by many controllable (e.g. smoking, unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol consumption) and uncontrollable (e.g. genetics, radiation, environmental pollutants) factors. Evidence suggests that regular, moderate to vigorous exercise may help reduce our risk of developing certain types of cancer, including colon, rectal, lung, and breast cancers. 1, 4
It increases muscle strength and function
The skeletal muscle fulfills numerous functions – it supports posture, controls movements and generates body heat. As we age, our muscle mass usually decreases, often due to a more sedentary lifestyle. This loss of muscle mass can decrease our range of motion and our risk of falling and increase our risk of developing muscle diseases such as sarcophagi Regular exercise, especially resistance training (such as weight lifting or body weight exercises such as squats and push ups) can improve muscle strength and resilience and increase our risk for muscle disorders like sarcophagi.
It improves bone health and strength
It has been shown that exercises using one’s own body weight (e.g. running, dancing) and resistance training in adolescents improve bone density and help maintain bone density in adulthood, which leads to a reduction in the risk of osteoporosis. 1 This is especially important for older adults and menopausal women because it slows the natural loss of bone density that occurs with age.
- It helps promote positive mental health
Regular exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on our mental health and well-being. 1 The exact mechanism by which exercising benefits our mental health is not fully understood. What is known is that regular exercise aids in the release of endorphins, helps relieve stress, and promotes healthy sleep patterns, all of which taken together improve our state of mind. Additionally, there is some evidence that exercising might even help treat depression and other mental disorders. 6th
- It reduces the risk of dementia
It has been proven that regular exercise protects against the deterioration of cognitive abilities. 1 Although it is not fully understood how exercise reduces cognitive decline, recent evidence suggests that the release of proteins known as neurotic factors plays an important role in this. These beneficial factors help promote the growth and recovery of neurons, which helps in supporting normal cognitive functions. 7 This may explain, in part, why older adults who remain active throughout life have a significantly lower risk of developing cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.