If you’re like most people, you know that exercise is good for you. But do you know how good? Exercise has an array of benefits for your health that extends far beyond weight loss. In fact, regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of developing certain diseases, and improve your mental health.
Exercise can help you maintain your weight or lose weight if that’s what you need to do. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to see results, either. Adding even moderate physical activity to your daily routine can help you control your weight.
If you are trying to lose weight, you may need to do more than moderate physical activity. To lose one pound (0.45 kilograms) a week, you need to burn about 500 more calories a day than you eat. You can do this by adding more physical activity to your day, such as by taking a brisk walk in your neighborhood after dinner. You can also try increasing the intensity of your workouts and adding interval training, which alternates periods of intense activity with periods of lighter activity.
Regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, several types of cancer and arthritis.
For example, if you have type 2 diabetes, exercise can help you manage your blood sugar levels. If you have high blood pressure, regular physical activity can help you lower it. And if you have arthritis, exercise can reduce pain and improve joint function.
The link between exercise and a reduced risk of developing cancer is strongest for cancers of the breast, colon and endometrium (the lining of the uterus). For example, women who are physically active have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who are not active.
Exercise also offers psychological benefits. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood and boost your self-esteem. It can also help you cope with challenging situations, such as a long-term illness or the death of a loved one.
In one study, sedentary adults who began a moderate-intensity exercise program (such as brisk walking) for just 30 minutes a day, three days a week, not only improved their physical fitness but also had better sleep quality and felt less tired during the day. They also had improvements in their mood and felt more able to cope with daily stress.
Another study found that people with depression who exercised regularly had better mental health outcomes than those who didn’t exercise. They also had greater improvements in self-esteem, body image and quality of life.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
The amount of physical activity you need to stay healthy depends on your age. Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily. Adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running). You can also do a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
If you’re not able to do 150 minutes a week right now, that’s OK. You can start with smaller amounts of time and work your way up. The important thing is to start and to keep moving. Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health.
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