Why Is Exercise Healthy?
Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Study after study shows the benefits it can have. Not only does regular exercise help you manage your weight and reduce your risk of developing diseases, it can help prevent and treat mental health problems. It can boost your wellbeing and mood, and is a great way to unwind from the stresses of life.
Here, we talk through each specific benefit of exercise and give you easy tips to get moving more often.
1. Makes you smarter
One such chemical is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a molecule that promotes the growth and survival of brain cells as well as communication between them. Studies in rats show that physical exercise boosts BDNF levels in the hippocampus, a brain structure critical for learning and memory formation, which in turn helps them remember how to navigate their way through underwater mazes.
Researchers have long believed that exercise boosts smarts but there was not any hard scientific evidence until a few years ago. Now, says Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a neurosurgery professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, it’s known that exercise increases levels of some molecules in the brain that are very important for cognition.
Numerous studies suggest that fitness enhances cognition in humans as well. A randomized clinical trial published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people 50 years and older with memory problems scored higher on cognitive tests after a six-month workout regimen. Those study participants assigned to exercise programs scored 20 percent higher than their sedentary peers at the end of the six months, and maintained a 10 percent edge one year after the trial ended.
2. Weight loss
The relationship between exercise and weight loss is complicated. Contrary to popular belief, working out at the gym every day will not necessarily lead to weight loss. “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures,” write the authors of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2007 guidelines. “So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.”
3. Builds strong bones
Research say that moderate exercise increases and maintains bone mass and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. “The most compelling evidence,” he says, “is that if you don’t do anything, your fracture risk is much greater.”
Like muscles, bones become stronger when forced to bear more weight than normal. “The skeleton is a smart structural organ and knows how much load [force] is being put on it. “Pick up a pail of water, and you’re loading your arm, your shoulder, your spine, your legs and your hips.” That means muscles are contracting, exerting forces on the bones supporting those body parts. This force stimulates the bone to maintain or even build new tissue. But scientists have yet to figure out why.
4. Keep your heart healthy
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of developing stroke or coronary heart disease. In fact, regular exercise can reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease by a third.
Doing regular exercise can help to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is common. If you have high blood pressure, you’re more likely to have a stroke or heart failure.
You can help to improve the balance of your cholesterol by exercising. There are two types of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is sometimes called ‘bad’ cholesterol; HDL cholesterol is sometimes called ‘good’ cholesterol. High levels of LDL and low levels of HDL increase your risk of heart disease. But the good news is, exercise is linked to higher levels of HDL cholesterol.
5. Reduce your chance of diabetes
Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes – exercising regularly helps you maintain a healthy weight, and therefore reduces your risk of becoming overweight or obese, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, it’s really important that you exercise. Regular physical activity can help keep your blood glucose levels within your target range, control your body’s sensitivity to insulin and lower your blood pressure. It also reduces your chances of developing diabetes-related problems.