The Benefits of Regular Physical Activity Enhancing Your Health and Longevity
Regular exercise increases your muscle strength and bone density, and boosts your energy. This can help you avoid accidents such as falls, and improve your resilience as you get older.
Studies show that people who are physically active enjoy a longer life. You don’t need to be an elite athlete to reap these benefits.
Reduces Risk of Diseases
People who regularly engage in physical activity have a much lower risk of developing a wide range of long-term (chronic) conditions. These include cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity and even some cancers, such as breast and colorectal. They also have a much lower risk of stress, clinical depression and dementia. In fact, a lack of regular exercise is now considered one of the leading independent risk factors for mortality – ranking right up there with smoking and high blood pressure.
The exact amount of exercise that improves your life expectancy isn’t exactly clear, but most studies suggest that a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week is better than nothing. That is around a little more than an hour of brisk walking each day. However, the more you exercise, the better, with some studies indicating that the optimal amount is closer to 700 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week – four times the official recommendation.
Exercise stimulates certain brain chemicals that may leave you feeling more relaxed, allowing you to better cope with stress. Physical activity may even prevent the negative effects of chronic stress by improving your physical health and heart function.
Moreover, regular exercise may increase your resilience to the negative effects of stress by helping you deal with it in healthy ways such as through regular physical activity rather than drinking or using drugs. It may also increase the number and strength of your immune cells to ward off disease.
Despite the common impression that you need to devote hours to grueling gym workouts or long, arduous runs to reap the benefits of physical activity, all you really need is moderate exercise. Studies have shown that just two to three 2-minute bursts of movement, three times a day significantly reduce the risks of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and even lengthen lifespans. In addition to this, you should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week that work all major muscles groups.
Exercise increases energy by promoting the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that metabolize nutrients and increase your body’s use of glucose for fuel. It also helps prevent peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels, which can cause fatigue.
In addition, research suggests that physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mood. When combined with a healthy diet, exercise can significantly lower the risk of many diseases and conditions including heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and obesity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, aerobic physical activity each week. It is also recommended that adults do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week. Moderate-intensity physical activity includes walking, swimming, cycling, dancing and yoga. Vigorous-intensity activities include running and participating in a fitness class.
Improves Mental Health
In addition to the many health benefits of routine physical activity, it can also boost your self-esteem and mood, improve sleep quality and energy. It can also reduce the risk of stress, clinical depression and dementia. In fact, exercise can increase your brain’s cognition and memory by improving the flow of blood to your brain.
All adults need at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening exercise. This can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. Even small increases in physical activity have significant mental and emotional health benefits for everyone. It is not a substitute for mental health treatment when needed, but it is an important part of your overall well-being. It can also improve your ability to cope with life’s challenges and help you manage stress in a healthy way.