Exercise has many benefits, both curative and preventive, for physical and mental health. Any amount of exercise, even if it falls below the suggested amount, is likely to produce benefits.
Exercise benefits both mental health and physical health. Indeed, the National Institute on Aging say studies show that “taking it easy” is risky.
Back in 1953, a pioneering epidemiological study in The Lancet showed that rates of coronary heart disease were lower among physically active London bus conductors than among less active bus drivers.
According to a
This article looks at some specific benefits of regular exercise for mental and physical health.
Regular exercise is good for heart health. Possible benefits include:
Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease is an important benefit of exercise.
The benefits continue to increase as people are more active than this.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), different types of exercise can benefit people with, or at risk of, type 2 diabetes by:
- improving control of blood glucose
- reducing cardiovascular risk factors
- helping with weight loss
- helping with general well-being
- delaying or preventing the development of type 2 diabetes
Exercise can also benefit people with type 1 diabetes by:
- improving cardiovascular fitness
- strengthening muscles
- improving insulin sensitivity
The ADA say, “Physical activity and exercise should be recommended and prescribed to all individuals with diabetes as part of management of glycemic control and overall health.”
The National Cancer Institute say there is “strong evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risk” of the following cancers:
- uterine (endometrial)
For example, a 2016 analysis of 26 breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer studies found a 37% reduction in cancer-specific mortality when comparing the most active patients with the least active.
There may also be a link between physical activity and reduced risk of other cancers, but the evidence is less clear.
Physical activity can help reduce anxiety, and this benefit can start
Longer term, regular exercise can also help reduce the risk of depression.
Regular exercise can help prevent the bone density loss that occurs with aging, say the
Moderate or vigorous muscle-strengthening and aerobic exercise, as well as bone-strengthening programs,
Real benefits to bone density begin with only about
Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and dancing, and resistance exercises are particularly good for bone health.
Weight-bearing exercise helps build strong muscles, which is particularly important for adults as they get older.
“Strong scientific evidence shows that physical activity delays death from all causes,” according to a 2018 report from the
Even better, the benefits start to accumulate with modest amounts of moderate-to-vigorous exercise. The greatest jump occurs when a person goes from being “inactive” to being “insufficiently active.”
In general, losing weight and then keeping it off also require a healthful, balanced diet.
It is easy to overestimate the number of calories that exercise burns.
- hiking: 370 calories
- light gardening: 330 calories
- running or jogging at 5 miles per hour: 590 calories
The study concluded that a definitive answer would require more research.
The authors note that although the quality of evidence was generally low, “There is some evidence of improved physical function and a variable effect on both psychological function and quality of life.”
None of the interventions appeared to cause any harm. The authors of the overview noted limited evidence regarding improvement in pain severity.
According to the
- increasing the efficiency of sleep
- improving sleep quality and deep sleep
- reducing daytime drowsiness
- reducing the need for sleep medication
Because exercise can improve bone health, it can treat or prevent osteoporosis.
Regular exercise also helps prevent falls and fractures related to muscle weakness and lack of balance, which is particularly important for people with osteoporosis.
Regular exercise can
In people over the age of 50 years, exercise also improves certain aspects of cognition, such as processing speed.
The results suggested that these behaviors, perhaps in combination, may help keep the cognitive manifestations of aging and neurodegenerative disease at bay.
Regular exercise can reduce the risk of many serious diseases, improve mental health and mood, and extend lifespan. Exercise benefits everyone.
Some benefits arise with very small increases in physical activity for people who are currently inactive.
Even if a person is far from meeting the recommended weekly activity levels, those first small steps are important and worthwhile.