Beyond Weight Loss: 9 More Reasons to Exercise
Exercise cuts your risk of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. Here are more reasons to exercise and how you can get started.
Everyone knows that exercise can lead to dropped pounds, a slender physique and chiseled abs. Regular physical activity boasts a bunch of other benefits, too, most of which you can't see.
A better body and mind
Exercise helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Getting fit also helps:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. Physical activity can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, all of which contribute to heart disease when high. People who don't exercise are twice as likely to get heart disease than those who do.
- Cut your risk of cancer. Physical activity can help prevent colon and breast cancer. Some early research also shows that it might also help protect from lung and endometrial cancer.
- Ward off diabetes and complications of diabetes. Exercise helps keep blood sugar levels and weight in check, which can cut your risk of diabetes. The more active you are, the lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Combat depression, anxiety and stress. Physical activity improves mood, relieves depression and enhances self-esteem. Studies show exercise can help other mental health treatments - like medications and psychotherapy - work better.
- Strengthen bones. Aerobic and weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones, muscles and joints. This can help prevent osteoporosis, and slow bone loss if you already have osteoporosis.
- Control pain. Regular activity can help manage joint pain, swelling and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis.
- Stay independent in your senior years. Being active helps you keep the ability to do daily tasks like climbing stairs or grocery shopping. Exercise also improves balance, strength and flexibility. This lowers the risk of falls.
- Keep you mentally sharp. Staying fit can slow age-related declines in cognition. Exercise is linked with better memory and multi-tasking ability.
- Boost your immune system. Exercise can keep sickness at bay. People who exercise tend to have fewer colds and other respiratory infections than people who aren't active.
The evidence is clear: exercise is good for you. Yet close to four in 10 Americans don't exercise at all. And only three in 10 Americans exercise enough to meet exercise guidelines.
Most healthy adults should strive to be moderately active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days to improve their health. One hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous activity leads to the same benefits.
Tips to get started
Get your doctor's permission first, then choose an activity you enjoy - such as walking, playing tennis or dancing - and start slowly. If you can't walk for 30 minutes, don't push it. Gradually extend your exercise sessions.
Keep in mind that some physical activity is better than none. Experts say working out as little as 60 minutes each week - or less than 10 minutes a day - helps your health.