Physical activity, or exercise, plays a crucial role in maintaining good physical fitness. Not only does it improve overall health, but it also reduces the risk of developing a variety of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and can be experienced by people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes. This article will explore the various benefits of regular physical activity, including immediate benefits, the recommended physical activity guidelines, and ways to increase physical activity in daily life.
Reducing the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
One of the most significant benefits of regular physical activity is its ability to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity can significantly lower the risk of these diseases. Additionally, regular exercise can improve the health of the cardiovascular system by strengthening the heart, reducing blood pressure, and improving cholesterol levels.
Lowering the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Some Cancers
Regular physical activity can also help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity, which leads to better blood sugar control. Furthermore, regular physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of certain types of cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach cancer.
For cancer survivors, regular physical activity can improve their quality of life and physical fitness. Additionally, regular physical activity can help improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Improving Brain Health and Cognition
Physical activity has immediate benefits on brain health, particularly for children aged 6 to 13. It can improve thinking or cognition, and reduce short-term feelings of anxiety for adults. Regular physical activity can help keep the mind sharp as you age and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. It also helps improve sleep patterns.
Improving Quality of Life through Everyday Activities
Regular physical activity can improve the ability to perform everyday tasks such as climbing stairs, carrying groceries, or playing with children or grandchildren. It can also lower the risk of falls, particularly in older adults.
Lifting Mood and Helping with Depression
A number of studies have found that exercise can be helpful in managing depression. Exercise may block negative thoughts or distract people from daily worries, exercising with others provides an opportunity for increased social contact, increased fitness may lift moods and improve sleep patterns. Exercise may also change levels of chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Physical activity is a critical component of weight management as it burns calories and helps maintain weight. The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, which could include dancing or yard work, to maintain weight. To lose weight and keep it off, a high amount of physical activity is needed, in addition to adjusting eating patterns and reducing the number of calories consumed.
Regular physical activity can improve energy levels, mood, feelings of relaxation and sleep. Additionally, regular physical activity can help recover from periods of hospitalization or bed rest and lower the risk of falls
Strengthening Bones and Muscles
Regular physical activity can help strengthen bones and muscles and reduce the risk of injury. Weight-bearing exercises like running, jumping, or weightlifting can help build bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Strengthening exercises, such as resistance training and weightlifting, can help build and maintain muscle mass.
Physical Activity Guidelines
The CDC recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, or a combination of both, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. For older adults or those with chronic conditions, the guidelines may be modified but regular physical activity is still encouraged.
Ways to Increase Physical Activity in Daily Life
There are many ways to increase physical activity in daily life, regardless of one’s current level of fitness or physical abilities. Some ideas include:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walking or biking to work or running errands
- Joining a recreational sports team or local fitness class
- Incorporating physical activity into household chores, such as gardening or doing yard work
- Going for a walk or hike on the weekends
- Incorporating physical activity into one’s daily routine, such as stretching or doing bodyweight exercises during commercial breaks while watching TV
Regular physical activity has numerous health benefits, from reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, to improving brain health and cognitive function. It can also improve one’s quality of life by making everyday activities easier, lifting mood, and helping with depression and weight management.
About 110,000 deaths could be avoided each year if US adults aged 40 and up did a little more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, but any amount of physical activity is beneficial. By incorporating physical activity into daily life, it can become a sustainable and enjoyable habit.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.