We’re frequently exposed to public service announcements, messages and advice from health professionals that encourage us to exercise. But sometimes little or no explanation is provided to understand what it is about exercise that benefits our health. Understanding the benefits of exercise may help you feel more motivated to get started with—or continue with—exercise!
Exercise may reduce the risk of serious health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as the chance of cancer recurring. If you have been diagnosed with any of these health issues, check with your doctor to determine what exercises are best for you.
If you’re sedentary for the majority of the day, your metabolism remains slow, which may lead to weight gain. Being overweight or obese is a primary risk factor for diabetes. Keeping your weight down through exercise may reduce your risk for diabetes. Regularly working your muscles also helps maintain your body’s receptiveness to insulin so that blood sugar is absorbed efficiently.
Cardiovascular Diseases, Stroke and Heart Attack
Exercise increases your body’s production of good HDL cholesterol and decreases your triglycerides. This prevents the buildup of cholesterol, and the HDL can even remove some of the bad LDL cholesterol you already have. Less bad cholesterol may also decrease your blood pressure. You may reduce your chance of having a stroke or heart attack as your blood flow improves and your heart functions more efficiently.
Cancer and Recurrence of Cancer
The National Cancer Institute recommends physical activity to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Numerous studies have connected exercise to a lower risk for breast, lung, prostate, colon and endometrial cancers. The cumulative findings of these studies indicate the lowered risk is influenced by weight management, energy balance, reduced hormone levels, better insulin regulation and improved immune response. If you are a cancer survivor, regular exercise may lower the chance of recurrence.
Exercise may help to improve your outlook, brain function, energy and sleep.
Feel happier through exercise!
You may find yourself feeling happier when you exercise. As you work out, your brain releases neurotransmitters—such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins—that influence happiness. Research suggests exercising may reduce stress and anxiety levels through increased happiness and confidence.
Improved brain function
Exercising increases your aerobic capacity or your ability to take in oxygen. Greater oxygen consumption can lead to better cognitive functions due to improved circulation. Essentially your brain gets more blood to work! Recent studies suggest exercise helps to create new neurons, preserve memory skills and may even protect against dementia.
Increased energy and sleep
Improvements in your aerobic capacity may also help with energy levels and sleep quality. Exercise improves endurance and strength, and with adequate levels of oxygen, your body is able to use more of the nutrients consumed through food. As a result, you may have more energy. You may also experience more energy from improved sleep. Exercise impacts sleep by improving your circadian rhythm, which is what makes you alert during the day and sleepy at night.
Exercise may help you live longer!
The cumulative health benefits of exercise may add up to a longer life through improved physical, mental and emotional health. Regardless, if you exercise for 15 minutes a day or an hour, any amount of activity may help to improve your health and quality of life. With all of these reasons to exercise, get started today!
Unsure of where to start with exercise? If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our Wellness Program, connect with a Wellness Coach for fitness tips and help creating an exercise routine.
If you’re looking for additional information on the benefits of exercise, check out the links below:
American Council on Exercise: Exercise As a Cure for Fatigue and To Boost Energy Levels
National Cancer Institute: Physical Activity and Cancer
Psychology Today: Physical Activity Improves Cognitive Function
Psychology of Aging: Exercise Holds Immediate Benefits for Affect and Cognition in Younger and Older Adults