Health Benefits of Exercise on Mind and Body

By Val Silver

The well-researched health benefits of exercise show a clear relationship between physical activity and your holistic health. Exercise helps you look good and feel good. 

Regularly moving your body throughout the day is a top health practice for healing your ills and supporting body and mind fitness as you age. Even though exercise benefits are primarily physical, your mental and emotional well-being are boosted in the short and long term as well.

Because regular movement energizes you, reduces the effects of stress, and makes you feel good, exercising can make it easier for you to accomplish your goals and improve your relationships. 

Best of all, you can reap the holistic health benefits of exercises for free right from the comforts of home. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you whether you incorporate regular physical activity throughout your day, such as mopping and cleaning windows or you carve out time for specific exercises and outdoor walks.

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercise benefits mental and emotional health in several ways, sometimes immediately.

Productivity, concentration and creativity are boosted with regular physical activity. It's a good idea to get up and stretch and move your body for a few minutes every hour while you are working to give your mind a rest and your body some much needed movement.

Exercise stimulates positive emotions by causing your brain to release chemicals that make you feel happier and calmer. You are likely to have better self-esteem and feel better about how you look.  

Research supports the claim that regular exercise is an effective remedy for reducing depression and anxiety as well as other treatments. And unlike prescription drugs, there are only positive side effects. For anxiety, aerobic exercise is best. Depression generally responds best to vigorous exercise several times a week.  

Another health benefit of exercise is that brisk movement quickly reduces stress hormones in the body. It helps you feel more relaxed and improves how you respond in stressful situations. When you feel angry or worked up, spend an hour or two vigorously scrubbing your home to burn off steam and get the added benefit of a clean house!

Exercising with others builds relationships. Participating in group sports, family walks, or exercise classes gives you the opportunity to have fun you while creating and strengthening relationships with loved ones, classmates and fellow walkers.

The following video "Morning Exercise=Mental Health" discusses the benefits of exercising first thing in the morning.

The keys to experiencing the health benefits of exercise are patience, the right types of exercise, and consistency. Longer term mental health benefits may take a few weeks to become evident. You will probably notice that your mood lifts quickly in the moment, but more serious concerns and lasting change take time.

Mind body stress relieving exercises also help you experience a sense of focus and calm.

Physical Health Benefits of Exercise

Health experts don't agree on much, but they do agree on this- there is a clear connection between moderate amounts of physical activity and a healthy body. 

Being sedentary  is detrimental to your health and is a significant risk factor for early death. Spending a few hours a week exercising do not offset the health risks of sitting too much. It is vital that you do some kind of movement every hour. Stand up if you can. Standing up at your desk and even treadmill work stations are becoming a trend for better health.

Standing, moving around, and exercise benefits brain functioning, tones muscles, benefits blood vessels, increases libido, and helps all body systems function better. 

  • By promoting circulation, exercise benefits all body systems in many ways. It slows aging of body and brain. Good blood flow moves nutrients into your cells and toxins out. This boost in circulation also helps protect men from erectile dysfunction.
  • The lymph system needs physical activity to move its fluids throughout your body. Rebounding is particularly good for this.
  • Muscles need regular exercise to stay toned, flexible and strong.
  • Metabolism increases with physical activity, making it a powerful ally when you want to  lose or manage weight. Your body consumes more calories when you are moving, then when you are sedentary. Sustained activity burns fat once your sugar reserves are used up. Don't be fooled though. You have to walk three miles to burn off the calories in one doughnut.
  • Libido is enhanced with regular activity. Women who exercise have more energy, feel better about how they look, and tend to have better sex lives. 
  • Exercise burns calories, making it a powerful ally when you want to lose or manage weight. Your body consumes more calories when you are moving, then when you are sedentary. Sustained activity burns fat once your sugar reserves are used up. Toned muscles at rest consume four times as many calories as fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day even when you are being sedentary. Don't be fooled though. You have to walk three miles to burn off the calories in one doughnut.
  • Brisk exercise lowers cortisol levels raised by stress. By lowering cortisol, exercise helps you resist overeating and packing on belly fat. 

Benefits of Different Types of Exercise

Regular moderate exercise helps the heart and lungs work more efficiently, eases pain, and protect you from osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Exercising benefits the immune system, making you less susceptible to colds and flu. Depending on how you exercise, it can help you look better, tone muscles, burn fat, and have more energy.

  • Aerobics helps prevent or manage high blood pressure. It boosts circulation, endurance, HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides, helping to reduce plaque deposits.
  • Weight bearing and resistance training strengthens bones and tones or builds muscle. The lower body regularly bears weight while walking. To reap exercise benefits for upper body osteoporosis protection, do weight bearing exercises - lift weights, use resistance bands do push ups or planks. Carrying children and grocery bags also works.
  • Core strengthening exercises such as pilates and yoga strengthen deep abdominal muscles that improve body strength, coordination, balance and posture. Core muscles support your internal organs, stabilize the lower back, aid spinal function and minimize the risk of lower back pain.
  • Stretching improves flexibility and range of motion.
  • Walking and standing often throughout the day reduces the health risks of too much sitting. The health benefits of walking everyday include better health and longevity. According to the Women's Health Study,  senior women who walked between 4400 and 7500 steps a day reduced their risk of dying within the next four years by more than 41 percent compared to women who walked 2700 steps. 

The following video "This is What Happens To Your Body When you Walk 5, 30 and 60 Minutes" illustrates the benefits of walking.

Physical activity and health go hand in hand. Exercise benefits you at any age, but it is especially important to take advantage of the health benefits of exercise as you enter middle age and beyond. The human body is meant to be moved often, so it's important to fight the urge to be sedentary. Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for disease and mortality. Make a habit of moving around for 10 minutes after sitting for an hour or two.

Frequent movement and weight bearing activities are key healthy living habits that make the difference between being able to live independently in old age or not. It helps reduce pain, boosts your mood, and promotes healthy weight and body functioning. Exercising daily benefits your health, however you choose to do it, and improves your chances of living a long, vital, happy life.

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Source: Aiming for 10,000 steps? Here's your new target.

Health Benefits of Exercise page updated 03/2020

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