Exercise improves your health, even if you have already been diagnosed with something, plus it can go a long way to prevent the onset of several life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
And exercise can help you look younger, fitter and feel more confident in yourself. If you need more reasons here is a summary of the proven health benefits of exercise cited from numerous medical journals:
Benefits of Exercise
1. It’s good for your heart
“Even a moderate amount of exercise helps your heart,” says Dr William Kraus, associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Centre, in an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine. “Some exercise is better than none and more is better than less.”
Exercise reduces LDL cholesterol, the kind that clogs arteries. It also reduces your blood pressure, relieving stress on your heart; improves your insulin sensitivity; improves heart muscle function; and blood flow and diminishes the chances of developing blood clots. These findings have been corroborated by a host of studies over the years.
2. Exercise promotes weight loss
Research has shown that to manage weight, you should do some exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. (The type of exercise you do is a topic best left for another time). Be consistent and be regular. Do your exercise sessions three to four times every week, not just one week a month, and you will achieve the result you desire – to lose weight and keep it off.
3. Exercise prevents osteoporosis
Exercise, together with a healthy calcium intake, builds strong bones. Weight-bearing exercises, like running, walking and weight-lifting, help lower your odds of getting osteoporosis as you grow older, according to experts.
Ideally, you should start when you’re young, but it’s never too late to pick up the habit. Even a brisk walk can help, say metabolic disease specialists.
4. Exercise lowers high blood pressure
Exercise is good for your blood pressure – no matter your age, weight, race or gender. And it really doesn’t matter whether you get exercise from a brisk walk, a fast run or a few laps in the pool; the results are equally good.
The studies on which these findings were based used “aerobic” exercise – activities that increase heart rate and improve the body’s ability to use oxygen. Most of the studies involved participating in one or more aerobic activity for 20 – 30 minutes per session, several times a week.
On average, exercise helped study participants reduce systolic (top number) pressure by nearly 4 mm Hg, and diastolic (bottom number) pressure by slightly more than 2.5 mm Hg. But experts caution that those with extremely high blood pressure should not rely on exercise alone to control hypertension.
5. Exercise is an excellent de-stressor
It’s general knowledge: exercise counters stress and depression. But exactly how and why does this work?
Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.
6. Exercise prevents colds
One doesn’t automatically associate regular exercise with a reduction in the number of colds people get. But researchers from the University of Carolina found that people who exercised regularly were 23% less likely to get colds than those who exercised less. And if those who exercised got colds, the symptoms disappeared more quickly than in the study participants who did little exercise.
Health experts believe that exercise spikes the immune system for a few hours each day, helping to ward off colds. Thirty minutes of brisk walking is enough to make you reap the benefits of exercise.
7. Exercise reduces the severity of asthma
Many people who suffer from exercise-induced asthma, understandably try to avoid exercise. But sports medicine specialists say it’s possible for asthmatics to continue exercising if they use preventive medications wisely and avoid certain triggers that exacerbate attacks. Exercise-induced asthma can be made worse by cold, dry air or air containing high levels of pollen or pollutants. The extra effort made to stay fit pays off in fewer or milder asthma attacks overall and a need for less medication.
Experts recommend swimming as one of the best exercises for people with asthma.
8. Exercise reduces diabetic complications
Lifestyle factors have a huge impact on certain conditions – and diabetes is one of them. Exercise can help to reduce your insulin requirements, lower your cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and in the long term can reduce the development of heart disease and stroke. This is important because diabetics have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory problems. Exercise can also promote weight loss, improve circulation and reduce stress levels (raising your glucose level).
9. Exercise promotes a healthy pregnancy
Although exercise might be risky in some cases, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy generally far outweigh the risks and some women can even exercise up until the third trimester. Relaxation exercises, Kegel exercise that strengthen the pelvic muscles and back exercises are all important for pregnant women.