Regular Exercise: What Are the Benefits?

We read so much about how important exercise is for both our mental and physical health. And the experts aren’t talking about lifting heavy weights or running a marathon; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even simple aerobic exercise, such as walking at brisk pace, can bring health benefits.

So what are some of the specific diseases and conditions that exercise can improve or prevent? The CDC looks at many, including these:

Achieving a healthy weight. Gaining and losing weight is all about calories: how many you take in versus how many you burn through physical activity. And for overweight people, studies show that even just a 5 percent weight loss can improve overall heath.  If you’re looking to lose weight, the CDC has online tools to help you determine how much you eat and how much physical activity you need to lose weight. To maintain your current weight, the CDC recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity.

Lowering the risk of certain diseases. Regular exercise helps reduce the risk of developing:

  • cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke)
  • certain cancers, such as lung, colon, and breast cancer
  • type 2 diabetes

Exercise has also been shown to help people already diagnosed with diabetes to keep their blood-glucose levels under control, and to lower high blood pressure.

Strengthening bones and muscles. As we age, our muscles tend to weaken and our bones lose density, which can lead to fractures. Weight-bearing exercises and resistance exercises (often with elastic bands) help strengthen both muscles and bones, which can help prevent osteoporosis and bring relief to arthritis sufferers. When using weights, you get more health benefits if, over time, you increase the size of the weights and the number of repetitions you perform.

Improving mood and overall mental health. The evidence is clear: Exercising leads to both a healthy mind and a healthy body. It eases the tendency toward depression, keeps you mentally focused, and helps you sleep better.

Are you new to exercise? Be sure to start slowly and don't overdo it. Before you begin a new exercise regimen, check with your doctor to see what kind of program is right for you. If you need a physician referral, just use our online service at Woman's Hospital. Our goal is to help you be your healthiest!

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