The True Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercise. It can improve your health on all levels. We’re not just talking about being fitter and stronger. We’re talking about overall health and longevity.

Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”).

Convinced yet?

The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.

You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health benefits. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough.

And you don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise. All four types of exercise have health benefits. They are:
1. Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming, etc.)
2. Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates, etc.)
3. Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi, etc.)
4. Flexibility (stretching, yoga, etc.)

All exercise counts, even if it’s not in a gym or doing a sport. Weekend hikes, walking the dog, and doing household chores all count towards your weekly exercise goal.

Let us take a minute to prove how healthy exercise really is. Here are a few key points.

Exercise for heart health

Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.

Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).

Exercise for brain health

Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the “hippocampus”); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.

Exercise for muscle and bone health

Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.

PRO TIP: And don’t forget that balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.

Exercise for diabetes

People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).

By contracting your muscles (via exercise), your cells are able to take up glucose and use it for energy. This helps manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.

Conclusion

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise. By doing just 30 minutes, 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health. Since there are different benefits for different types, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Take the stairs, dance around your house – what ever gets you moving!

If you’re just starting out, pick something you enjoy, get some accountability (exercise tracker or a buddy), and start today.

What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it? Let us know in the comments below.

Yours in health,

Melaina & Amybeth

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References:

youtube.com/watch?v=SFBBjynBpSw&t=3s

health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

authoritynutrition.com/10-benefits-of-exercise/

niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent_falls_ff.asp

health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/exercise-is-good-for-diabetes

authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/

precisionnutrition.com/healthy-movement

nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity

2 thoughts on “The True Health Benefits of Exercise”

  1. Thanks for the reminder on the importance of exercise Melaina & Amybeth! I think the key takeaway is the variety of exercise we can incorporate into our lives. My personal, quick go to type of exercise is running as there are no obstacles to prevent it from happening-just me and my running shoes. I also love tennis, which takes more organization, but I love the game/competitive part of it. I also like to do fitness classes as they force me to do stuff like burpies and push-ups that I would NEVER do on my own. The reason I keep coming back to exercise is that I always, always know I will feel better after I did it. That is something I can count on, a rarity in today’s world!

    1. Wow, this is great! Sounds like you do a lot to keep things fun and challenging. We too love to mix it up. Mostly running because of the convenience but also swimming and biking (triathlons), as well as some “home gym” workouts to keep the core strong. However, as you said – fitness classes are a great way to push yourself. There’s nothing like a little competition to up-level your efforts. Keep up the great work!

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