With desk jobs and TV entertainment, most Americans spend too much time sitting and not enough time moving. Physical activity guidelines suggest getting 150 minutes of exercise per week, which can be broken down into 30 minutes five days a week.
Why are these recommendations put into place, though? While weight loss is often a common motivator and result of exercise, it has more benefits than just looser-fitting jeans.
Reap these benefits of daily exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss and everything to do with overall health!
10 Health Benefits of Working Out
Physical activity is recommended throughout the lifespan, but why is it so important? The invaluable benefits of exercise on physical and mental health include:
1. Lowers the risk of heart disease
2. Helps manage blood sugars
3. Sculpts and strengthens muscle mass
4. Builds and sustains bone strength
5. Stimulates and supports a healthy metabolism
6. Helps ease back pain
7. Improves mental health
8. Slows cognitive decline
9. Enhances sleep quality
10. Increases the quality and quantity of life
Read on to explore these benefits of daily exercise in greater detail.
1. Lowers Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease (cardiovascular disease) is the number one killer for men and women in the US. According to the CDC, being physically inactive, having diabetes, being overweight/obese, an unhealthy diet, and excessive alcohol all increase risk for heart disease.
Daily physical activity, even without weight loss, can lower the risk for heart disease. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, and dancing, can help raise that "good" cholesterol, also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Regular physical activity can likewise improve blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause a stroke, heart attack, amongst other health consequences.
2. Manages Blood Sugars
Exercise can help manage and improve blood sugar. When the body is active, glucose is pulled from the bloodstream into muscle cells without the need for insulin.
Regular exercise and a nutritious diet also help with weight management. Maintaining a healthy weight limits the risk of developing diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes.
If managing diabetes or taking diabetes medication, speak with a doctor before adding daily physical activity.
3. Sculpts & Strengthens Muscle Mass
Although muscle may be sought out for visual purposes, improved muscle tone can help increase metabolism, improve balance, coordination, and mobility. Feeling stronger, with or without notice, can also help improve confidence and self-esteem.
To maximize this benefit, include strength training at least two to three times weekly. Target all major muscle groups, including the chest, back, core, legs, and arms.
4. Builds & Sustains Bone Strength
In addition to sculpting and strengthening muscle, weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen bones and prevent them from weakening. Weight-bearing exercises include lifting weights, walking, or jogging.
Being physically inactive can increase the risk for weak bones especially later in life. Strong bones ultimately reduce the risk of osteoporosis that tends to come as age advances.
5. Stimulates & Supports a Healthy Metabolism
Regular exercise can help reduce fat mass and stimulate metabolism. Metabolism can be thought of as your body’s rate of using fuel for energy. Physical activity burns extra calories while muscles are moving, but even after exercise, your metabolism can remain elevated.
The American Council on Exercise suggests exercise like circuit strength training or high-intensity exercise will provide more of a boost to metabolism after exercise. However, any physical activity can help stimulate your metabolism favorably.
6. Helps Ease Back Pain
Walking, running, stretching, and any other exercise that involves core and back strengthening can help improve posture. Good posture can reduce back pain or limit the opportunity to experience it later down the road.
Make sure to properly warm up before and cool down after strength training activity for optimal benefit and limiting injury.
7. Improves Mental Health
While exercise is good for physical health, it also has many benefits on mental health.
Exercise releases “feel good” endorphin hormones which may explain why studies show those who exercise regularly have lower rates of depression and anxiety. The endorphin hormones can enhance feelings of a positive mood and reduce levels of stress.
Other mental benefits of exercise include boosts in self-confidence and creativity.
8. Slows Cognitive Decline
Exercise may lead to improved memory and slow the progression of cognitive decline. Consistent exercise routines may be a preventative measure for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Regular exercise shows to sharpen memory and concentration. This is because exercise stimulates brain regions involved in memory function.
9. Enhances Sleep Quality
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the average American adult needs 7 hours of sleep at night. Those who get less than this amount are more likely to be obese, physically inactive, or currently smoking.
Regular, daily physical activity, even moderate-paced walking, can aid in the regulation of sleep patterns. The harder the exercise, typically the more you will feel worn out and ready for sleep at night.
10. Increases Quality & Quantity of Life
Research has shown regular exercise, such as brisk walking, could help increase life expectancy by several years. This benefit has been shown regardless of weight or having underlying health conditions such as heart disease or cancer.
Regular daily activity can not only increase your quantity of life but also the quality of life according to Harvard Health. Regular exercise can help improve mood, stimulate blood flow to the brain, improve sleep quality, and increase mobility with age.