8 mental and physical health benefits of exercise

health benefits of exercise

Exercise has been defined as any activity that moves your muscles and helps your body burn calories. It has manifold mental and physical health benefits. In fact, the National Institute on Aging says studies prove how “taking it easy” is not good for health. 

In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), routine physical activity is the best thing to do for your health. 

Here are the top mental and physical health benefits of exercise. 

  1. Reduces risks of diseases

Exercise can reduce the risk of 40 chronic diseases, and the lack of physical activity is a major cause of chronic illnesses. Regular exercise has been revealed to improve body composition, heart health, and insulin sensitivity. 

Regular exercise helps with your cardiovascular health by:

  • Reducing the risk of stroke
  • Improving cholesterol levels
  • Reducing the risk of heart attack

A person doing regular exercise can get these benefits immediately.

Exercise also has positive benefits in reducing the chances of Type-2 diabetes. Regular aerobic exercise also has positive effects on people with type-1 diabetes. 

In the case of type-2 diabetes, resistant training improves blood pressure, insulin resistance, fat mass, lean body mass, and glycemic control. 

  1. Reduce the risk of cancer

You might be surprised to know that exercise can reduce the risk of fatal illnesses like cancer. The National Cancer Institute says that strong evidence states that higher intensity physical activity lowers the risk of the following cancers. 

  • Breast cancer 
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bladder 
  • Uterine (endometrial)
  • Kidney 
  • Colon 
  • Stomach 
  • Esophageal 
  • Prostate
  • Thyroid
  • Gastric

Exercise also reduces the risk of lung cancer in individuals exposed to asbestos. Epidemiological evidence suggests that exercise can delay or prevent mesothelioma. Many mesothelioma doctors recommend light exercise even after diagnosis to improve treatment efficacy. 

  1. Improves skin health

Your skin gets the effects of the oxidative stress in your body. Oxidative stress occurs when antioxidant defenses fail to repair the cell damage caused by free radicals. As a result, the structure of the cells gets damaged, negatively impacting your skin.

Regular moderate-intensity and higher-intensity exercise increase your body’s natural antioxidant defenses that protect the cells. It also improves your skin by increasing the blood flow carrying the essential nutrients and oxygen to the working cells around the body, including the skin. 

In addition to transporting oxygen, blood flow carries away extracted waste products from the cells. Resultantly, it induces skin cell adaptation and reduces aging

  1. Improves your brain health and memory

Regular physical activity can improve brain functions, including concentration, memory, thinking, and problem-solving. 

Physical activity also stimulates the production of hormones that increase brain cell growth. 

Exercise also diminishes the risks of dementia in adults. In people over 50 years, exercise positively impacts certain facets of cognition, such as information processing speed. According to a 2016 study, physical activity, learning new skills, and eating a Mediterranean diet improve brain health.

  1. Promotes better sleep 

Exercise helps with sleep by promoting relaxation. The energy stores that get depleted during exercise restores during sleep. Moreover, the increase in body temperature during exercise improves sleep quality by helping body temperature drop during sleep.

According to a study, participation in an exercise training program improves sleep latency. Additionally, another study spanning over four months found that stretching and resistance exercise improves sleep in people with prolonged insomnia. Also, returning to sleep after waking up, sleep quality, and sleep duration all improve after engaging in stretching and resistance exercise.

You can choose the type of exercise based on your preference and inclination. It is found that aerobic exercise alone or combined with resistance exercise improves sleep quality. 

  1. Reduces pain

It might look strange to many of you that exercise actually reduces pain. Some people might have been avoiding exercise because it is painful and requires you to stretch your body and repeat postures. While it is true that some exercises, such as stretching, accompany some level of pain, in totality, exercise reduces pain. 

For many years, the only cure for pain and fatigue was taking rest and inactivity. However, more doctors are vouching for the pain-reducing effects of physical exercise these days. In fact, one study has found that exercise can cure some of the most stubborn and chronic pains and improve the quality of life. 

Also, several studies show that exercise helps control pain related to multiple health conditions such as persistent low back pain, chronic soft tissue shoulder disorder, fibromyalgia, and so on. 

Physical activity also increases your tolerance for pain and reduces pain perception. 

  1. Helps lose weight

One of the obvious reasons for people to engage in physical activity is to reduce weight or keep it in check. Physical activity helps you shed the extra weight gained by consuming extra calories. 

Often exercise is required even if you consume a healthy, balanced diet. 

In the past, people were more loyal to dieting than exercise. They believed that consuming less would help them reduce weight. But it actually does not. Reducing your calorie intake decreases your metabolic rate and suspends weight loss. 

Conversely, exercise increases your metabolic rate, which helps you burn more calories and reduce your weight. 

  1. Uplifts your mood

Exercise makes you happier by stimulating the brain to release mood-uplifting chemicals. These hormones also fight anxiety, depression, and stress. 

Additionally, exercise makes changes in the parts of the brain that are in charge of fighting depression and anxiety. 

Interestingly, the intensity of the exercise does not make much difference. Exercise appears to display its incredible mood-lifting benefits no matter the intensity. In fact, in a study comprising 24 women participants diagnosed with depression, exercise significantly reduced the feelings of anxiety regardless of intensity. 


Exercise offers incredible mental and physical health benefits. It uplifts your mood, helps you fight depression, improves memory, reduces weight, improves your skin, and reduces chronic pains. And it does not need to make much change in your lifestyle to accommodate exercise. You can start with a daily thirty minutes session and move up gradually.

By Michael Caine

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