The single best thing for your health: move your body
- 7 Dec ‘23
- 3 min.
- Editorial OpenUp Medical
In a world where sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits, and high levels of stress have become the norm, taking care of our health has become more important than ever before. With an overwhelming amount of conflicting information available, it can be challenging to determine the best course of action. However, the science is clear – regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to maintain good health.
Studies have shown that exercise can lead to a wide range of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers.
Break it down into small tasks
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.
While this might seem like a daunting task, breaking it down into smaller, manageable chunks throughout the week, such as 30 minutes of brisk walking five days per week, can make a significant impact on overall health and well-being.
3 key factors to keep in mind
Before we delve into the specific benefits of exercise, it’s worth highlighting a few general points about this topic.
First, it’s important to note that there are many different types of exercise, and what works best for one person may not be the same for another. For example, some people may prefer high-intensity interval training (HIIT), while others may prefer yoga or swimming. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and that fits your schedule and abilities.
Second, it’s important to approach exercise with a gradual and realistic mindset. Starting too quickly or pushing too hard can lead to injury or (physical) burnout, which can derail your progress.
Finally, it’s important to remember that exercise is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and avoiding harmful substances like tobacco and excessive alcohol are also crucial components of overall health and well-being.
The many benefits of exercise on your well-being
This is what science says:
1. Maintaining good cardiovascular health
One of the most significant benefits of exercise is improved cardiovascular health. A study published in the ‘European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation’ found that people who regularly exercised had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, regardless of other risk factors such as age, smoking, and high blood pressure (1).
Exercise can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which are crucial for maintaining good cardiovascular health.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in ‘Hypertension’ found that aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking or cycling, can help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension (2).
2. A better immune system
Regular exercise has also been linked to a stronger immune system. A study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science (3) found that people who exercised regularly had a lower risk of upper respiratory tract infections such as colds and flu. Exercise helps boost the production of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections.
3. Fight chronic diseases
In addition to improving cardiovascular health and boosting the immune system, exercise has also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in ‘Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise’ found that regular exercise was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (4). Another study published in the ‘Archives of internal medicine’ found that exercise can help prevent and manage obesity, which is a significant risk factor for many chronic diseases (5).
4. Boost your mental well-being
In addition to its benefits for physical health, exercise has numerous mental health benefits as well. Moving your body regularly has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved mood, and better cognitive function (6).
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in ‘Journal of psychiatric research’ found that exercise was associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression (7).
Another study published in ‘JAMA’ found that regular exercise can help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of developing dementia (8).
Move more, live better
Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can work wonders for your health. There is no doubt that exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind.
What’s more, exercise is not only essential but also enjoyable and rewarding. Whether it’s walking, swimming, biking, or strength training, the key is to make exercise a habit and a priority in your life.
By making it a part of your daily routine and combining it with other healthy habits, you can achieve optimal health and lead a fulfilling life. So, get moving, and start reaping the many benefits that exercise has to offer!
1) Nocon, M., Hiemann, T., Müller-Riemenschneider, F., Thalau, F., & Roll, S. (2008). Association of physical activity with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation, 15(3), 239-246.
2) Cornelissen, V. A., & Fagard, R. H. (2005). Effects of endurance training on blood pressure, blood pressure‐regulating mechanisms, and cardiovascular risk factors. Hypertension, 46(4), 667-675.
3) Nieman, D. C., & Sakaguchi, C. A. (2022). Physical activity lowers the risk for acute respiratory infections: Time for recognition: Running Head: Physical activity and illness. Journal of Sport and Health Science.
4) Nieman, D. C., Henson, D. A., Austin, M. D., & Brown, V. A. (2010). Immune response to a 30-minute walk. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42(2), 243-248.
5) Hu, G., Lindström, J., & Valle, T. T. (2004). Physical activity, body mass index, and risk of type 2 diabetes in patients with normal or impaired glucose regulation. Archives of internal medicine, 164(8), 892-896.
6) Colcombe, S. J., & Kramer, A. F. (2003). Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study. Psychological science, 14(2), 125-130.
7) Schuch, F. B., Vancampfort, D., Richards, J., Rosenbaum, S., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of psychiatric research, 77, 42-51.
8) Lautenschlager, N. T., Cox, K. L., Flicker, L., Foster, J. K., van Bockxmeer, F. M., Xiao, J., … & Almeida, O. P. (2008). Effect of physical activity on cognitive function in older adults at risk for Alzheimer disease: a randomized trial. Jama, 300(9), 1027-1037.