Exercise refers to any physical activity that puts your muscles to work and makes your body burn calories. It is highly beneficial for human health. While it is the key to losing weight, but this is not the only function of exercise. It is not just to help you achieve that ‘size zero.’ It benefits almost every aspect of your health, from sleep quality to energy level. It enables you to stay happy and help you live longer. Regular exercise can help you lead a healthy balanced life.
There are many forms of exercise, like swimming, jogging, running, dancing, walking, and so on. Even climbing stairs is a form of exercise, and many health experts recommend it. It tones the muscles while helping lose weight. Moreover, it reduces cardiac risk and benefits overall health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week for adults. One can also perform an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity. The organization further advises spending at least 10 minutes for performing the aerobic activity. Moreover, for more health benefits, the WHO recommends increasing the aerobic exercise to 300 minutes per week.
Health Benefits of Exercise
Exercise plays an important role in human life, regardless of which kind of exercise is involved. Not only that it tones the muscles and gives a presentable body shape, but it also holds a lot of health benefits. Here are the health benefits of exercise with the scientific evidence proving them.
1. It helps you feel happier
Exercise tends to have a positive effect on your mood. According to one study, physical activity reduces the feeling of anxiety, depression, and stress. It renders changes in the brain parts that control stress and anxiety.
It can also amplify the brain sensitivity for hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine that are responsible for relieving the effects of depression.
According to other research, physical activity plays an important role in the management of mild and moderate mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. However, this research also noted that excessive physical activity can lead to the development of depression-mimicking psychological symptoms.
Exercise’s mood-improving benefits stem from the fact that it can increase the production of endorphins, which help release the positive feeling and relieve the perception of pain. Moreover, it helps people having anxiety to be more aware of their mental state while enabling them to adopt distractions from their fears.
Notably, your mood can improve regardless of the intensity of your workout. A study in 24 women diagnosed with depression indicates that exercise of any intensity can drastically decrease the feeling of depression. In fact, even choosing to do or not to do the exercise can change a person’s mood over short periods. One study asked 26 healthy men and women who exercised regularly to continue or stop exercise for two weeks. Those who stopped working out experienced an increase in the negative mood.
In one experiment, the researchers provided the participants with a smartphone app to track their activity, happiness levels, and locations in the entire day. The app received over 4 million responses a year. The results showed that users were the second happiest after their workouts.
2. It helps with weight loss
This one is the obvious and most-believed benefit of exercise. Physical activity involves calories burning, which is a precondition for weight loss. According to some studies, inactivity is a major contributor to weight gain and obesity. In fact, exercise gives better result than dieting. That is because when you diet, there is low calories intake that lowers your metabolic rate. When your metabolic rate is low, your body slows down in burning down the calories. Whereas, with regular exercise, the metabolic rate actually increases, and thus, your body burns more calories. This way, you lose weight faster.
According to some studies, combining aerobic exercise with resistance training can optimize fat loss and muscle mass maintenance, which is an essential condition for losing weight.
3. It can boost your energy levels
Exercise can be an energy booster for both healthy people and those having medical conditions. In one study, six weeks of regular exercise alleviated the feeling of fatigue in 36 healthy people who reported continuous fatigue. According to other studies, exercise can drastically increase the energy levels in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and other serious health conditions. It proves to be more effective in dealing with the CFS than other treatments like passive therapies, including stretching and relaxation or no treatment at all. In fact, exercise can raise energy levels in people dealing with progressive illnesses like HIV/AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
While performing a physical activity when one feels blue is a challenge itself, that is exactly what he/she should do at that time. Low-intensity exercise helps a lot in decreasing fatigues levels while giving a 20 percent energy boost. So, if you are feeling blue, take a stroll to the nearby street or a park. According to one study, low-intensity exercise gives better results than the higher-intensity workout in dropping the fatigue levels. So, people who cannot perform vigorous exercise can still have an energy boost by a light physical activity.
4. It helps muscles get stronger
Exercise plays a key role in maintaining and building strong muscles. Workout like weightlifting can help with muscle-building if combined with ample protein intake. Exercise helps because it stimulates the release of hormones that enhance the muscles’ ability to absorb amino acids. Amino acids help the muscles and bones grow and mitigate their breakdown. When people age, they tend to lose muscle mass and function that leads to frequent injuries and disabilities. Performing regular exercise can reduce muscle loss and help maintain strength as the person ages.
Moreover, exercise helps build bone density when a person is younger. It also helps preventing osteoporosis later when the person starts aging. In fact, exercise like gymnastics along with sports activity like soccer and basketball can promote a higher bone density than the low-key exercises like cycling and swimming. So, if you avoid resistance training but so cardio activities, it is time to do some high-impact workouts. When your bones and muscles are strong, you are less likely to develop osteoporosis in the later life.
While you are doing the muscle-building exercises, do not forget stretching. It increases the body’s flexibility and makes performing routine tasks easier. It also increases blood circulation to the muscles and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. A few minutes’ stretching every day can make a huge impact on your life.
5. It can improve your memory and brain health
Exercise can improve brain function and help with memory and thinking skills. It increases the heart rate, which accelerates the blood flow and the supply of oxygen to your brain. It also stimulates the production of hormones that support the growth of brain cells. Exercise helps a lot with brain health in older adults who are already undergoing a lot of changes in their brain structure and function.
According to some studies, aerobic exercise like swimming or running can render the hippocampus increase in size. Hippocampus is the brain part vital for learning and memory. Given that exercise can bring an increase in the said brain part, it can improve mental functions in older adults to a great deal. Its ability to boost the hippocampus size is more beneficial to women. That is because the smaller size of this area is a risk factor for dementia in women. Moreover, it can mitigate the changes in the brain that can cause schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Therefore, if you are having trouble remembering names or where you put the keys, exercise is the solution to all your problems. Consuming brain-boosting foods like nuts and fatty fish, along with exercise, can give even better results.
6. It helps improve sleep quality
Regular exercise can help you sleep better. In fact, it helps people with insomnia a lot in getting them to sleep. What happens is that a person loses energy during exercise, which stimulates the recuperative process during sleep. Moreover, the body temperature rises during exercise and then drops when a person goes to sleep. This factor also helps with the quality of sleep. Several studies have proven that physical exertion helps with the quality of sleep. One study shows that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every week can bring up to a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality.
Another study found that 16 weeks of exercise increase sleep quality. The study observed that physical activity helped 17 people with insomnia sleep deeply and longer than the control group. It also kept them energized throughout the day. According to research, regular exercise is even more beneficial for older adults who suffer from several sleep disorders.
The sleep quality improves even further when the person performs either aerobic exercise alone or combines it with resistance training. If you are unable to sleep and just toss and turn in your sleep, you should try exercise as a remedy. It strengthens cardiac rhythms and helps keep you alert during the day while keeping you asleep throughout a few hours at night. However, the benefits of exercise do not kick in immediately. According to a recent study, it can take up to four months for an exercise routine to have a positive effect on sleep.
7. It can help skin health
The oxidative stress in your body can affect your skin. Oxidative stress happens when the antioxidant defenses fail to repair the cell damage caused by free radicals completely. It damages the internal structures of the cell and deteriorates the skin. Exercise can help you deal with it by helping your body produce natural antioxidants that protect the cells. However, you should know that only regular moderate exercise can give the said results. Intense and heavy exercise actually contributes to oxidative damage. Regular light exercise stimulates blood flow and helps delay the appearance of aging signs on the skin. Moreover, sweating during exercise flushes out the toxins from your skin and improve its overall health.
8. It can lower the risk of chronic disease
According to research, inactivity is a major cause of chronic diseases. Several studies have shown that regular exercise can improve insulin sensitivity along with cardiovascular fitness and body composition. It can also decrease blood fat levels and blood pressure while a lack of regular exercise, be it for a short period, can result in a significant increase in belly fat. Belly fat is the major contributor to several chronic diseases. It increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and early death.
That is the reason experts recommend physical activity to alleviate the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, they advise performing exercise daily to reduce belly fat and hence reduce the risk of developing these chronic health conditions.
9. It helps increase your life span
Everybody wants to live a long, healthy life, and exercise is the key to achieve that. In order to live longer, you have to keep your body in shape, and that is possible with physical activity. A 2012 research in 650,000 people found that 150 minutes of moderate exercise enhances the life span by 3.4 years. So, working out for just ten minutes a day or 75 minutes a week can add 1.8 extra years to your life. Notably, the findings proved to be true even for those individuals who were obese or overweight. The same research found that being inactive and obese can decrease the life span up to 7.2 years.
You do not have to join a gym or do squats necessary to remain fit. You can stay healthy by walking, swimming, climbing stairs, and playing sports. Whatever the activity is, just slip it in your daily routine and cling to it. If you want to enjoy the full benefits of exercise, be mindful of your diet too. Empty calories are still harmful to your health, even if you exercise daily.