Benefits of Physical Activity to your Overall Health. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
If you’re not sure about becoming active or boosting your level of physical activity because you’re afraid of getting hurt, the good news is that moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, is safe for most people.
Cardiac events, such as a heart attack, are rare during physical activity. But the risk does go up when you suddenly become much more active than usual. For example, you can put yourself at risk if you don’t usually get much physical activity and then all of a sudden do vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, like shoveling snow. That’s why it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase your level of activity.
If you have a chronic health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, talk with your doctor to find out if your condition limits, in any way, your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your skills. If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum Guidelines, try to do as much as you can. What’s important is that you avoid being inactive. Even 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is right for you.
The bottom line is:
The health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks of getting hurt. If you want to know more about how physical activity improves your health, the information below gives more detail on what research studies have found.
Control Your Weight
Looking to get to or stay at a healthy weight? Both diet and physical activity play a critical role in controlling your weight. You gain weight when the calories you burn are less than the calories you eat or drink. When it comes to weight management, people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need. You may need to be more active than others to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
To maintain your weight:
Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of the two each week. Substantial scientific evidence shows that physical activity can help you maintain your weight over time. However, the exact amount of physical activity needed to do this is not clear since it varies significantly from person to person.
To lose weight and keep it off:
You will need a high amount of physical activity unless you also adjust your diet. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires both regular physical activity and a healthy eating plan. The CDC has some great tools and information about nutrition, physical activity, and weight loss.
Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity puts you at a lower risk. You can reduce your risk even further with more physical activity. Regular physical activity can also lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.
Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which you have some combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar. Research shows that lower rates of these conditions are seen with 120 to 150 minutes a week of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity. And the more physical exercise you do, the lower your risk will be.
Already have type 2 diabetes? Regular physical activity can help control your blood glucose levels. To find out more, visit Diabetes and Me.
Reduce Your Risk of Some Cancers
Being physically active lowers your risk for two types of cancer: colon and breast. Research shows that:
Physically busy people have a lower risk of colon cancer than do people who are not active.
Physically active women have a lower risk of breast cancer than do people who are not active.
Reduce your risk of endometrial and lung cancer. Although the research is not yet final, some findings suggest that your risk of endometrial cancer and lung cancer may be lower if you get regular physical activity compared to people who are not active.
Improve your quality of life. If you are a cancer survivor, research shows that getting regular physical activity not only helps give you a better quality of life but also improves your physical fitness.
Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles
As you age, it’s essential to protect your bones, joints, and muscles. They support your body and help you move. Keeping bones, joints, and muscles healthy can help ensure that you’re able to do your daily activities and be physically active. Research shows that doing aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical movement of at least a moderately-intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age.
Hip fracture is a severe health condition that can have life-changing adverse effects, especially if you’re an older adult. But research shows that people who do 120 to 300 minutes of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week have a lower risk of hip fracture.
Regular physical activity helps with arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints. Research shows that doing 130 to 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, the low-impact aerobic exercise improves your ability to manage pain and do everyday tasks. It can also make your quality of life better.
Build strong, healthy muscles. Muscle-strengthening activities can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength. Slowly increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions you do will give you even more benefits.
Improve Your Mental Health and Mood
Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better. Research has shown that doing aerobic or a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can give you these mental health benefits. Some scientific evidence has also shown that even lower levels of physical activity can be beneficial.
Improve Your Ability to do Daily Activities and Prevent Falls
A functional limitation is a loss of the ability to do everyday activities. Such as climbing stairs, grocery shopping, or playing with your grandchildren.
How does this relate to physical activity? If you’re a physically active middle-aged or older adult, you have a lower risk of functional limitations than people who are inactive.
Already have trouble doing some of your everyday activities? Aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises can help improve your ability to do these types of tasks.
Are you an older adult who is at risk for falls? Research shows that doing balance and muscle-strengthening activities each week along with moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, can help reduce your risk of falling.
Increase Your Chances of Living Longer
Science shows that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers. This is remarkable in two ways:
- Only a few lifestyle choices have as significant an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.
- You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. You can put yourself at lower risk of dying early by doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
Final Thought on Benefits of Physical Activity
Everyone can gain the health benefits of physical activity – age, ethnicity, shape or size do not matter.
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Physical Activity – Wv Dhhr, http://dhhr.wv.gov/hpcd/FocusAreas/WVHealthyLifestyles/Pages/default.aspx (accessed February 16, 2018).