Let’s Get Healthy 2014: Part 1 – Exercise Benefits

Exercise 2014 Part 1.By Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

If you think exercise is all about toned abs and weight loss, think again.  Daily workouts may be the answer to a longer, healthier life.  In fact, exercise may be the least expensive prescription for overall physical and mental health.  The union of the physical and psychological benefits of exercise greatly enhance life quality.  Studies show that moderately active people are happier, have more stable relationships, and better sex lives.  

Physical benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Helps to protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • Helps to prevent development of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer and breast cancer
  • Improves sleep
  • Gives you glowing skin
  • Supports brain and eye health
  • Prevents weight gain
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Increases energy
  • Improves  cardiovascular, respiratory, muscle, and joint fitness
  • Strengthens bones and helps prevent bone loss due to osteoporosis
  • Promotes healthy digestion
  • Bolsters the immune system
  • Strengthens the body for enhanced performance for other activities
  • Improves flexibility and aids injury prevention
  • Increases your chances for a longer lifespan

Psychological benefits include:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Elevates mood by flooding the brain with mood-enhancing endorphins
  • Helps alleviate depression by boosting GABA levels
  • Builds self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Enhances body image
  • Strengthens mental alertness and cognitive skills
  • Improves the general sense of wellbeing

The three factors that determine the level of an individual’s beneficial exercise gains are frequency, intensity and length.  If fitness is your goal, exercise a minimum of 3 days a week, at a moderate level of intensity for at least 30 minutes.  Any less will generally not support physical fitness in healthy adults.  However, if improved health is your goal, lower intensity, increased frequency and shorter time periods will suffice.  

Whatever type of exercise you choose, your regimen should include cardiorespiratory, strength training, and flexibility exercises.  Emphasis should be placed on factors that lead to lasting lifestyle habits and the proper amount of activity to get the greatest benefit at the lowest risk of injury.  If you are new to exercise, be sure to start out slowly and incrementally increase your time and intensity as you gain strength. 

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