The main incentive that can make you start exercising is overall health improvement. But what exactly exercise can do for you? Here is the list of scientifically proven health benefits the regular exercise brings.
It is never late to begin exercising 7. Regular physical activity provides benefits to men and women of all ages.
2New brain cells development (neurogenesis). Exercise stimulates the formation of new brain cells (neurons)10-11. Also, exercise strengthens connections between those cells. The areas of the brain that are stimulated through long-term exercise are associated with memory and learning. The production of new neurons is associated with improvement in learning and memory.
3Cognitive and mental function enhancement. Physical activity improves and facilitates cognitive performance, information processing and may delay cognitive impairment and dementia1-3. For instance, older adults who engage in regular physical activity have better performances in tests implying decision-making process, memory and problems solving.
But what about children? Are physically fit kids better suited to compete not only on the ball field, but in the classroom as well? University of Illinois researchers12-13 have found that physical activity may enhance the academic achievement of children by improving their attention and working memory skills.
Netherlandish researches found that decline in cognitive functioning is associated with a higher mortality risk5.
4Prevention of cardiovascular disease. Lack of physical activity is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. There is a direct relation between physical inactivity and cardiovascular death14.
Regular physical activity makes your heart, like any other muscle, stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. Regular exercise also prevents heart disease by lowering blood pressure, increasing good HDL cholesterol that transports fat away from the arteries and back to the liver for processing, reducing levels of bad LDL cholesterol that can form fatty deposits in the arteries and by preventing blood clots.
In a long-term Swedish study women and men who were physically active at least twice a week had a 41% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) than those who performed no physical activity15.
Exercise itself does not "burn off" cholesterol like it can with fat. Physical exercise can positively alter cholesterol metabolism by increasing the production and action of several enzymes in the muscles and liver that function to convert some of the cholesterol to a more favorable form, such as HDL-cholesterol.
6Prevention and control of type 2 diabetes. Exercise promote healthy blood sugar levels to prevent or control diabetes. Regular physical activity may improve insulin resistance and glucose tolerance and is highly effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in persons with impaired glucose regulation. Exercise also exerts anti-inflammatory effects.
There is strong evidence from randomized controlled studies18-21 (e.g. Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study and the Diabetes Prevention Program in the USA) that moderate physical activity combined with weight loss and balanced diet can confer a 50-60% reduction in risk of developing diabetes among those already at high risk.
7Blood pressure lowering effect and reduced risk of developing hypertension. Low physical activity increass the risk of hypertension22. Regular exercise training decreases blood pressure in approximately 75% of hypertensive persons with an average decrease of 11 and 8 Hg mm for systolic and diastolic blood pressure respectively23-25.
All forms of exercise seem to be effective in reducing blood pressure. Aerobic exercise appeares to have a slightly greater effect on blood pressure in hypertensive individuals than in individuals without hypertension. Regular exercise training may decrease blood pressure in overweight and obese persons even without changes in body weight. The ways by which exercise can cause a reduction in blood pressure are unclear.
8Prevention of neoplastic (cancer) diseases. Evidence exists that physical activity may be associated with a lowe risk of several common forms of cancer, most notably colon and breast cancer26-27. Physical activity has effects on fat tissue, obesity and body fat distribution, as well as immunological, mechanical and hormonal effects, providing a range of possible mechanisms whereby physical activity may reduce cancer risk.
9Reduced stroke risk. Exercise and physical activity may reduce stroke risk. Research data indicates that moderate and high levels of physical activity may reduce risk of total, ischemic, and hemorrhagic strokes28.
People who have good physical function after the age of 40 may lower their risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent compared to people who are not able to climb stairs, kneel, bend, or lift as well, according to research published in the December 11, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
10Weight control: effective proven remedy for overweight and obesity. Regular physical activity helps to reach and maintain a healthy weight. (Regular physical activity helps people lose excess weight or stay at a reasonable weight.) Exercise increases metabolism and burns calories. If a person takes in more calories than needed in a day, exercise offsets a caloric overload and controls body weight. It speeds the rate of energy use, resulting in increased metabolism. When metabolism increases through exercise, the person will maintain the faster rate for longer periods of a day.
12Perfect body and looking better. With perfect body you look better in clothes and you look better naked. Exercise helps reduce body fat by building muscle mass. Both resistance and aerobic exercise improve body composition even without dieting31.
13Bone strength and prevention of osteoporosis. An active lifestyle benefits bone density. Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation, delays bone loss and may protect against osteoporosis (form of bone loss associated with aging)32.
14Strong immune system. Regular moderate exercise seems to have a beneficial effect on the immune function. The findings from some studies support the possibility that exercise may delay immunosenescence (age dependent decline in immune function)33.
15Better night sleep: time-proved "Insomnia Rx". If you suffer from poor sleep daily exercise can make the difference. The natural dip in body temperature five to six hours after exercise may help to fall asleep. Researches from the Stanford University School of Medicine34 found that regular exercise provide improvement in general quality of sleep, quicker sleep-onset, longer sleep duration and feeling rested in the morning.
16Longer and more satisfying sex life. Regular exercise maintains or improves sex life. Physical improvements in muscle strength and tone, endurance, body composition and cardiovascular function can all enhance sexual functioning in both men and women. Men who exercise regularly are less likely to have erectile dysfunction and impotence than are men who don't exercise35.
17Back pain remedy. By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise helps to prevent back pain. High quality studies. The research36 proves that exercise is effective treatment for recurrent low back pain.
18Effective stress managment technique. Exercise stimulates various brain chemicals, which may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. (Exercise can cause release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. These give you a feeling of happiness and positively affect your overall sense of well-being.)
19Depression: suitable alternative to antidepressants. Study after study has shown that exercise promotes mental health and reduces symptoms of depression37-39. The antidepressant effect of regular physical exercise is comparable to the potent antidepressants like Sertraline37. Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve symptoms of depression. However, smaller amounts of activity (as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time) have been shown to improve mood in the short term.
Some evidence suggests that exercise positively affects the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release tension in muscles, help you sleep better and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness.
20Alternative to hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women. High-intensity exercise significantly reduces negative changes related to the menopausal transition40.
21Gastrointestinal tract benefits (better gastrointestinal function). Exercise is beneficial for persons suffering from cholelithiasis and constipation. Physical activity may reduce the risk of diverticulosis, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, and inflammatory bowel disease41. Decreased gastrointestinal blood flow, neuro-immuno-endocrine alterations, increased gastrointestinal motility, and mechanical bouncing during exercise are postulated.