It is common knowledge that exercising has many health benefits, yet according to the Center of Disease Prevention, over half the US population does not exercise; only 48% of adults meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines(1). This is mind-‐boggling, considering how physical activity positively effects health and improves quality of life.
Physical activity affects both the mind and body. From a physical standpoint, it helps prevent many diseases and health conditions. For example, exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and stroke(2). Additionally, studies show that physical activity is associated with lower incidences of colon, breast, and lung cancer. Weight-‐bearing exercises strengthen bones and help prevent osteoporosis(2).
With proper diet, exercise can also help combat obesity. When you exercise, you burn calories. One pound is 3500 calories; so in order to lose one pound a week, one must have a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day. Burning calories through exercise and physical activity helps reach this goal(3).
Besides weight loss, exercise through strength training can change body composition and tone muscles. Also, certain physical activity can help alleviate arthritis pain by improving functional ability and joint mobility(2).
Exercise also has positive mental benefits. Research shows that cardiovascular exercise aids in stress reduction. Additionally, exercise can improve mood by decreasing stress, tension, fatigue, and anger. It also helps decrease depression and anxiety and has a positive influence on self-‐esteem. When you look and feel better, you are happier and your confidence tends to increase(2).
Working out can help improve memory, both in adults and children. This is because of an increased production of cells in the hippocampus section of the brain, which is responsible for learning and memory4. Furthermore, exercise appears to enhance creativity up to 2 hours after a workout(4).
Research shows that exercise increases productivity. Those who exercise regularly seem to have more energy and are able to get more done(4).
Research shows that some physical activity is better than none and the benefits of exercising exceed the possible complications involved. The Guidelines suggest 60 minutes of physical activity per day for both adults and children. Additionally, the higher intensity, more frequent and longer duration the exercise, the more benefit that is derived. Benefits usually occur with 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week and two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups(5).