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The single ONE thing you can do to improve your health.

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

The top 10 benefits of regular exercise.


There’s a long-standing debate on the question of “what is the one single thing I can do to improve my health?” The debate shifts between the exercise and nutrition communities but the answer is...both are vitally important.


Staying active can reduce your chances of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many others (1), (2), (3). The WHO recommends people between 6 and 65 y.o., get one to three hours of exercise per week (4). Even 15 to 30 minutes of brisk walking, running, dancing, playing a sport, or strength training every day helps improve heart rate, muscle strength, immunity, and overall mental well-being (5). Regular physical activity is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk for chronic disease and to improve your quality of life.


The top 10 benefits of regular exercise


1. Heart and blood pressure protection. - Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death. And that’s unfortunate. According to the American Heart Association, by 2030, the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases is going to increase by 9.9% (6). But scientists from around the globe agree that the mortality rate due to CVD can be reduced by regular exercising (7).


High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, and even death. And it is mainly caused due to bad eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or inherited genes. If you suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure, you must take care of your diet and start exercising. Scientists studied about 800 people with high blood pressure for six months and found that exercising for 30 to 60 minutes, 3 to 7 days a week helped lower systolic blood pressure (15).


2. Reduce Weight. – Exercise and diet are the best ways to lose weight (8). If you are borderline overweight, overweight, or obese, start exercising. It will help you shed the extra pounds and help to ward off many obesity-related diseases.

In addition, excess weight increases your risk of insulin resistance. And can lead to diabetes. Scientists have confirmed that regular physical exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58% in high-risk population (9).

3. Strengthen Bone and muscle. - As we age, typically after 30 years, we start losing muscle mass and bone density. And that’s the reason many women above 30 suffer from loose skin, joint pain, and osteoporosis. Research has shown that strength training improves the mineral density of the bones, thereby protecting you from osteoporosis (10). In fact, strength training also helps improve muscle mass, muscle power, and muscle endurance (11).


4. Stress Reducer/Mood Booster. - Stress not only hampers your sleep at night but also impairs your immune functions (12). Stress also leads to excess accumulation of harmful free-radicals in the body, which, in turn, leads to other diseases (13). Physical activity is highly beneficial in reducing stress. Whenever you feel stressed out, take a walk or run, and you will soon see a change in your mood. Depression and anxiety are serious mental health issues, and you should not ignore them. Apart from taking medical advice, you must start exercising. Exercise helps release serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that helps uplift your mood. Norwegian scientists conducted an experiment with 977 patients and found that physical exercise improved the mood of depressed patients (14)


5. Reduces Chances of Chronic Disease. - Cancer is one of the leading causes of death. It is caused due to faulty genes synthesizing faulty proteins, leading to uncontrollable cell division. It becomes dangerous when the cells metastasize and affect other body parts. Regular exercising not only helps reduce the risk of cancer but also has a positive effect on people undergoing cancer treatment (16).


6. Reduces Low Back Pain/Improves posture, balance and flexability. - Low back pain has affected about 540 million people worldwide . And the only way you can get rid of it is by exercising regularly. Do stretching exercises – they help strengthen the bones and muscles in the lower back. Studies proved that exercise helped about 10-50% of patients suffering from low back pain (18). Balance and posture are everything when it comes to preventing injuries and muscle pull. Regular exercise can help improve your posture, thereby adding an inch or two to your height. It helps to improve your gait and overall physical appearance and keeps your shoulders relaxed, chest up, and core tight. Exercising also helps older adults by preventing falls (21). Exercising improves the flexibility of your bones and muscles. American scientists conducted an experiment on college athletes and found that those who practiced yoga were more flexible than those who didn’t. Exercising can also help older adults improve the range of motion of their muscles and bones (20). Just 30 minutes of exercise, 3-5 days a week, can help older adults improve flexibility and get various health benefits.


7. Improve Sleep Quality. - Exercising has some very good effects on sleep. It is the best day-time activity that induces good quality sleep. When you sleep, your muscles, bones, and brain get rejuvenated, which allows you to make better decisions the next day. Exercise is the best, safest, and cheapest treatment for insomnia.


8. Increase Energy and Confidence Levels. - Feeling fatigued and low in energy all the time is the most common problem that we face today. The reasons may range from being overworked to leading a sedentary life. But the only medicine that you can have is regular exercise. Scientists agree that regular exercise has a positive effect on energy levels. In fact, based on my personal experience, physical activity helps improve productivity as well. So, if you are feeling low, you should probably go for a run. Being physically active improves your confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. It stimulates positive energy in your body and has amazing physical and mental health benefits. As mentioned before, exercise helps with depression, stress, obesity, and various health issues – the major reasons for an individual’s low self-worth and confidence.


9. Increase Life Span. - As you can see from the above list, there’s almost nothing that exercising cannot fight or protect you from. So, it is only logical that your life expectancy will increase when you do not suffer from diseases that can kill you. German scientists reported that exercising reduced the mortality rate by 30-35% and increased life expectancy from 0.4 to 6.9 years (22). The mantra is to live disease-free as long as you live – and that’s what exercising can help you achieve.


10. Boost Brain and Memory Function. - Both brain function and memory are influenced by physical exercise. American scientists confirm that aerobic exercise can help prevent age-related brain tissue loss, improve attention span, and enhance the ability to process information quickly (17).


Things to consider:

  • Avoid sedentary lifestyles.

  • Do at least two hours of moderate intensity and one hour of high-intensity workout per week.

  • Do strength training to prevent muscle loss and strengthen your bones.

  • Play outdoor sports, swim, dance, walk, or run.

  • If you have a desk job, get up and walk around every hour. Or get a standing work desk.

  • Treat exercise as an enjoyable activity and not a punishment.


As always, talk to your doctor before beginning a new high intensity or resistance training program. Keep going and show your body some love!




References:

  1. “Exercise and diet reduce risk of diabetes, US study shows” British Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine.

  2. “Effects of Nutrition and Exercise Health Behaviors on Predicted Risk of Cardiovascular Disease among Workers with Different Body Mass Index Levels” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, US National Library of Medicine.

  3. “Prevention of Chronic Disease by Means of Diet and Lifestyle Changes” Chapter 44, Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition.

  4. “Physical activity” WHO.

  5. “Physical Exercise as an Effective Antiaging Intervention” BioMed Research International, US National Library of Medicine.

  6. “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 At-a-Glance” American Heart Association.

  7. “Prevention of cardiovascular diseases: Role of exercise, dietary interventions, obesity and smoking cessation” Experimental and Clinical Cardiology, US National Library of Medicine.

  8. “The role of exercise for weight loss and maintenance.” Best Practice & Research. Clinical Gastroenterology, US National Library of Medicine.

  9. “Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes” Diabetes Care, US National Library of Medicine.

  10. “Physical activity in the prevention and amelioration of osteoporosis in women : interaction of mechanical, hormonal and dietary factors.” Sports Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.

  11. “Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training” International Journal of Exercise Science, US National Library of Medicine.

  12. “The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication” Future Science OA, US National Library of Medicine.

  13. “Stress, Oxidative Injury and Disease” Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, US National Library of Medicine.

  14. “Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety” Frontiers in Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine.

  15. “Is exercise good for high blood pressure?” British Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine.

  16. “Exercise in cancer” Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology, US National Library of Medicine.

  17. “Why exercise is good for your brain” EMBO reports, US National Library of Medicine.

  18. “Exercise as a treatment for chronic low back pain.” The Spine Journal, US National Library of Medicine.

  19. “Your lungs and exercise” Breathe, US National Library of Medicine.

  20. “Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes” International Journal Of yoga, US National Library of Medicine.

  21. “Exercise Leads to Faster Postural Reflexes, Improved Balance and Mobility, and Reduced Falls in Older Persons with Chronic Stroke” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, US National Library of Medicine

  22. “Does Physical Activity Increase Life Expectancy? A Review of the Literature” Journal of Aging Research, US National Library of Medicine

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