Benefits of exercise
Exercise is the miracle cure we've always had, but for too long we've neglected to take our recommended dose. Our health is now suffering as a consequence.
Whatever your age, there's strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and even happier life.
How does exercise help?
Exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. People who do regular activity have a lower risk of many chronic diseases.
Research shows physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
What are the health benefits?
Given the overwhelming evidence, it seems obvious that we should all be physically active. It's essential if you want to live a healthy and fulfilling life into old age.
It's medically proven, people who do regular physical activity have:
- Up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
- Up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer.
- Up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer.
- 30% lower risk of early death.
- Up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis.
- Up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture.
- 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults).
- Up to a 30% lower risk of depression.
- Up to a 30% lower risk of dementia.
What counts as exercise?
To stay healthy, adults should try to be active daily and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities.
For most people, the easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of everyday life, like walking or cycling instead of using the car to get around. However, the more you do, the better, and taking part in activities such as sports and exercise will make you even healthier.
For any type of activity to benefit your health, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer. This level of effort is called moderate intensity activity. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can't sing the words to a song.
If your activity requires you to exercise even harder, it is called vigorous intensity activity. There is substantial evidence that vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity. You can tell when it's vigorous activity because you're breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. At this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.