To put it simply, physical activity and exercise is important for everyone. Children, adolescents, and adults of all ages need regular physical activity. Physical activity promotes good health, and you should stay active throughout all stages of your life regardless of your body type or BMI.
Understanding the benefits of physical fitness and knowing how active you should be can help you maintain good health and improve your overall quality of life. Here are a few benefits of regular physical activity that demonstrate the importance of physical fitness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases cause 7 out of 10 deaths in the U.S., and treating chronic diseases accounts for 86% of U.S. healthcare costs. While some diseases cannot be prevented, you can reduce your risk for certain disease – such as heart disease and diabetes – through reducing risky behaviors and living a healthy lifestyle.
Making healthy choices, such as engaging in regular physical activity, can reduce your risk for many health issues and complications that can result in expensive medical care.
Increase your life expectancyNumerous studies have shown that regular physical activity increases life expectancy and reduces the risk of premature mortality. There’s not a magic formula that translates hours of physical activity into hours of life gained, but research suggests that people who are more active tend to be healthier and tend to live longer.
Reduce your risk of injuryRegular exercise and physical activity increase muscle strength, bone density, flexibility, and stability. Physical fitness can reduce your risk for and resilience to accidental injuries, especially as you get older. For example, stronger muscles and better balance mean that you’re less likely to slip and fall, and stronger bones mean that your less likely to suffer bone injuries should you take a tumble.
Improve your quality of lifeA sedentary lifestyle and a lack of physical activity can take a toll on a person’s body. Physical inactivity is associated with an increased risk for certain types of cancer, numerous chronic diseases, and mental health issues. Exercise, however, has been shown to improve mood and mental health, and provides numerous health benefits. Of course physical fitness also allows you to do things that you may not otherwise be able to do.
Staying active and healthy allows you to do activities that require a certain level of physical fitness. For example, hiking to the top of a mountain is a rewarding experience that instills a sense of accomplishment and provides spectacular scenery, but there are people who cannot experience this due to fitness limitations.
But even walking around the zoo with your family or playing on the playground with your children can be challenging for those who neglect physical activity for extended periods of time. Being active means that it’s easier to stay active as you get older.
Improve your health
There are numerous health advantages to physical fitness. Regular exercise and physical activity promotes strong muscles and bones. It improves respiratory, cardiovascular health, and overall health. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and reduce your risk for some cancers.
In other words, staying active is a crucial part of maintaining good health and wellness.
Encourage your family to be more active, and challenge yourself to meet daily or weekly physical activity goals. Play outdoor sports with the whole family, schedule time each day to go to the gym, or pick up healthy, active hobbies like hiking or cycling. National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is a great time to get more active, but don’t stop at the end of the month. Make exercise and physical activity a permanent part of your daily routine!
Benefits of regular physical activity
If you are regularly physically active, you may:
- reduce your risk of a heart attack
- manage your weight better
- have a lower blood cholesterol level
- lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- have lower blood pressure
- have stronger bones, muscles and joints and lower risk of developing osteoporosis
- lower your risk of falls
- recover better from periods of hospitalisation or bed rest
- feel better – with more energy, a better mood, feel more relaxed and sleep better.
A healthier state of mind
A number of studies have found that exercise helps depression. There are many views as to how exercise helps people with depression:
- Exercise may block negative thoughts or distract you from daily worries.
- Exercising with others provides an opportunity for increased social contact.
- Increased fitness may lift your mood and improve your sleep patterns.
- Exercise may also change levels of chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones.
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Aim for at least 30 minutes a dayTo maintain health and reduce your risk of health problems, health professionals and researchers recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
Ways to increase physical activity
It is a good idea to see your doctor before starting your physical activity program if:
- you are aged over 45 years
- physical activity causes pain in your chest
- you often faint or have spells of severe dizziness
- moderate physical activity makes you very breathless
- you are at a higher risk of heart disease
- you think you might have heart disease or you have heart problems
- you are pregnant.
Pre-exercise screening is used to identify people with medical conditions that may put them at a higher risk of experiencing a health problem during physical activity. It is a filter or ‘safety net’ to help decide if the potential benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for you.