BlogPhysical activityTen Benefits of Physical Activity and Exercise

Ten Benefits of Physical Activity and Exercise

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Written by Mariia Roza on June 07, 2021

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Why do we need physical activity? First of all, sports are fun. Wrestling, jogging, swimming, pole dancing, yoga, and other exercises can all make us faster, stronger, and even smarter(1)! However, today, we're going to focus on the multiple benefits physical activity provides to our health.

Health benefits of sports and physical activity

We shouldn’t take working out as an annoying duty! Physical activity is a natural process for a person, something that kids love to do. It's a shame adults often neglect it.

Many people believe that we stop exercising because we age. In reality, we age because we stop exercising. Physical activity is much more than a tool to tone your muscles and lose a few pounds. It is essential for our longevity, physical and psychological health.

Here are just a couple of health benefits you will get thanks to physical activity.

1. Life expectancy

According to thirteen cohort studies(2), physical activity can increase a person’s lifespan from 0.43 to 6.9 years. 

This data might be partially explained by the fact that physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality(3). Sports help stop the development of heart disease, hypertension, strokes, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, and even colon and breast cancer.

2. Cardiovascular system

Sports keep your cardiovascular system(4) in great shape and improve the condition of your muscles. A review(5), published in the Experimental and Clinical Cardiology in 2005, shows that regular moderate exercises help prevent heart and cardiovascular conditions in multiple ways. These include regulation of cholesterol levels and decreasing blood coagulation. 

3. Weight management

sports for weight loss
sports for weight loss

Physical activity helps you lose excess fat as it increases your total daily energy expenditure.

One thing to remember when talking about sports and weight loss is that your body adapts to exercises. This is why professional marathon runners lose less energy while running than those who’ve just started their training. Your body gets used to exercises, and to keep losing weight, you have to try different types of workouts focused on all muscle groups. You should also always keep in mind that nutrition is more important for weight loss than sports. Trying to burn extra calories you ate yesterday with four hours on the treadmill the next day is a dangerous, erratic strategy.

4. Cognitive function

Sports improve cognitive functions and can make you smarter(6). According to some research(7), moderate aerobic activity improves memory and can even lead to hippocampus growth. In addition, physical activity stimulates neurogenesis which means that your body creates new neurons, improving your cognition.

5. Better sleep

According to the John Hopkins medicine center, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can improve your sleep by stimulating the body and brain processes that influence a good night’s rest. 

On the other hand, too intense exercises before bedtime can increase the body’s temperature and stimulate the production of endorphins. Both these processes can lead to speel problems. This means that there is an interrelationship(8) between sleep and exercise. Experiment to find out how your body reacts to different types of activity performed in various periods of the day.

6. Type 2 diabetes

Exercises are proven(9) to regulate insulin and prevent insulin resistance, the state of the body which is linked with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. The risk of diabetes can be decreased by 58% in high-risk populations by incorporating moderate physical activity and dietary changes to their lifestyle.

Exercise is also a beneficial way to regulate blood sugar for diabetic patients. However, remember that you should consult your doctor before making a workout plan if you have any acute health conditions, including diabetes.

7. Skin condition

Studies(10) show that exercise can improve skin conditions in several ways. First of all, physical activity improves the overall metabolism of the liver and cardiovascular system, which affects the skin condition. Second, it also regulates skin metabolism and aging by improving blood flow to nourish the skin and eliminating waste from the skin cells.

8. Arthritis and joints health

physical activity for arthritis
physical activity for arthritis

Exercise can improve the state of joints and can help with arthritis and osteoarthritis(11). On the other hand, if you have some joint-related health conditions, you should consult your health provider first to choose the type of activity that won’t worsen their state. 

It’s obvious that exercises focused on balance and joints mobility improve posture and the ability to control your body using the muscular carcass. In addition to that, one randomized clinical trial(12) of 2005 has demonstrated that exercise improves balance, mobility, and postural reflexes even in older people with chronic stroke.

9. Back pains

Chronic low back pains are a frequent health condition among Americans which can worsen their quality of life. According to one literature review(13), the intensity of such pains can be diminished by 10% to 50% with the help of exercises for the lower back. In this case, exercise should be used as a therapeutical tool. Remember, though, that while some moderate exercises can improve your back health, others might be detrimental, so make sure to consult your coach or a personal trainer before you start some intense workout routine. 

10. Digestion and gut microbiome

As you know, a healthy gut microbiome is vital for our lives. The 2017 studies(14) show that physical activity is an external factor that can improve gut microbiota’s quantitative and qualitative state, resulting in a stronger immune system, better digestion, and faster weight loss.

Emotional benefits

Ancient Greeks used to say that a healthy body means a healthy mind. Exercise improves brain function by stimulating the gray matter in areas of memory management. On its part, a sedentary lifestyle reduces our ability to cope with stress. Unfortunately, even the advanced pills produced by the pharmaceutical industry can't provide as many benefits to our health as sports do.

emotional benefits of physical activity
emotional benefits of physical activity

A recent study(15) from the Duke University (USA) observed two groups of patients with severe depression. For ten months, one group took antidepressants, and the other exercised. In the end, scientists have found regular exercise to be more effective in treating depression than medication.

There is strong evidence(16) that exercise helps reduce anxiety symptoms. This connection exists both in humans and animals(17), was proven by multiple research(18), and can be used to treat and prevent anxiety and stress. 

Social benefits

Sports is one of the hobbies that is intertwined with socializing. If you’re a bit sociopathic and can’t make connections with people easily, team sports will help you here. Have you noticed that the older you become, the more difficult it is to make new friends? It becomes much easier when you spent time together with people doing something all of you like. Try a running club, a martial arts or a dancing school, or just getting a gym membership and asking a pal next to help you with the bench exercises.

social benefits of physical activity
social benefits of physical activity

Playing games is a type of activity that might improve your connections with friends or family as well. For example, skiing or playing snowballs, kayaking or mountain trekking, cycling in the city, or swimming in the sea might become a great alternative to spending time with your friends in a cafe or playing video games.

If you have kids and want to become closer with them, participate in their games! Seek and hide, race with one another, have a day in a swimming pool: By doing so, you will create pleasant memories in your children and become a parent of a happier kid. 

What is regular physical activity?

The World Health Organization(19) provides direct recommendations on the minimum time one should be physically active throughout the week to stay healthy and receive the benefits of physical activity. For people aged 18-64, this number is 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity during the week. You can divide this time between three to four workout sessions in the gym or be active every day by adding walking or jogging to your routine.

Most personal trainers and dietitians mean by “regular” activity is staying consistent and spreading your activity time evenly on the week and month. One of the recommended strategies is alternating your aerobic and anaerobic workout sessions during the week to get the most out of each type of activity.

regular physical activity
regular physical activity

Types of physical activity

There are two types of exercises. These are aerobic physical activity, also referred to as “cardio,” and anaerobic activity, aka short-term but intense workouts. 

Aerobic is safe for most people, even those with some health conditions. Aerobic activity includes walking, jogging at a moderate pace, swimming, and cycling. 

Anaerobic activities are intense workouts you can’t perform for a long time. These include sprinting, heavy lifting, jumping, and other high-intensity interval training like Tabata or super circuits.

The difference between physical activity and exercise

Being physically active doesn’t mean spending most of your free time in the gym. 30-minute walks with your dog, playing simple games with your kids or friends like Frisbie, volleyball, or tennis are also considered moderate physical activities. When we talk about exercise, on the other hand, we usually mean gym sessions and workouts.

Doing sports has the same benefits as physical activity, but it’s not essential for your health, by contrast with physical activity crucial for your wellbeing.

difference between sports and physical activity
difference between sports and physical activity

Summing up

Sports and physical activity can improve your health and quality of life. It decreases the risks of multiple diseases, can deal with health conditions you already have, improves your emotional state, and can even improve your cognitive function.

There is simply no reason why you should deprive yourself of this highly efficient, affordable, and pleasant treatment. Be physically active whenever you can and get ready to enjoy all the benefits sports provide!

Sources

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  • Reimers C. D., Knapp G., Reimers A. K. (2012, July 1). Does Physical Activity Increase Life Expectancy? A Review of the Literature. Journal of Aging Research. DOI: 10.1155/2012/243958
  • Tikkanen-Dolenc H., Waden J., Forsblom C., et al. (2017, October 16). Physical Activity Reduces Risk of Premature Mortality in Patients With Type 1 Diabetes With and Without Kidney Disease. Diabetes Care. DOI: 10.2337/dc17-0615
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