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Benefits of regular exercise, featured image - a man running

16 Scientific Benefits of Regular Exercise

Working out frequently comes with a lot of amazing evidence-based benefits for your physical and mental well-being as regular exercise:

  1. Supports weight loss
  2. Promotes better sleep
  3. Combats diseases
  4. Boosts energy
  5. Improves sex life
  6. Boosts brain health
  7. Reduces pain
  8. Improves mood
  9. Boosts bone health
  10. Improves skin health
  11. Helps you live longer
  12. Improves body composition
  13. Fights depression
  14. Reduces risk of cancer
  15. Helps with osteoporosis
  16. Helps to prevent falls

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out, regular exercise is one of the most important aspects of staying healthy [1].

It doesn’t matter how young or old you are and what your body type is – being physically active provides benefits for everyone.

You also don’t have to perform heavy Olympic weightlifting in order to improve your mental and physical health as even moderate-intensity activities (e.g. brisk walking) can be beneficial to your well-being.

Frequent exercise can be utilized by performing a number of different physical activities such as:

  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Dancing
  • Jogging
  • Walking

The main thing is to be consistent to see any long-term effects of being physically active.

And to help you learn more about the benefits of regular physical activity, in this article I’ll cover the following topics:

  • A closer look at the top 16 science-backed benefits of regular exercise.
  • Practical tips to help you start working out frequently.
  • Important physical exercise safety guidelines.

Top 16 Science-Based Benefits of Regular Exercise

Below you’ll see 16 superb benefits of regular physical activity along with the corresponding studies:

1. Regular Exercise Supports Weight Weight Loss

Being physically active on a regular basis can aid weight loss and here’s what research has to say:

  • According to a scientific review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, training frequently boosts your energy expenditure i.e. metabolism [2].

When you work out you burn calories and energy expenditure (the calories you burn) are directly related to weight loss.

This is how it works:

  • To maintain your current weight – Your daily calorie intake (from food and drinks) must equal the calories you burn.
  • To lose weight – Your must burn more calories than you consume throughout the day.

But a lowered calorie intake (e.g. when you’re on a diet) lowers your metabolism, which can temporarily delay your weight loss.

And an increased metabolic rate means that you’ll burn more calories than you would usually.

2. Regular Exercise Improves Your Sleep Quality

There are plenty of relevant studies that show just how effective frequent physical activity is when it comes to improving sleep quality:

  • A 2019 study conducted by Brazilian researchers over the course of 4 months found that both stretching and moderate-intensity resistance training led to notable improvements in the sleep of insomnia patients [3].
  • A scientific review published in the Journal of Physiotherapy found that adults aged 40+ (with sleep issues) who work out regularly reported sleeping better and falling asleep more easily [4].

Thus, it’s safe to conclude that training your body frequently (whether stretching or lifting weights) can have a positive impact on your overall sleep quality.

3. Regular Exercise Helps Prevent Chronic Disease

You can use regular physical activity as an evidence-based method for combating chronic diseases.

This is what research has to say about the specific health conditions that can be fought by being physically active:

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Different forms of cancer:

  • Frequent workouts can help decrease the risk of certain cancer types, based on cancer prevention guidelines from the American Cancer Society [5]:
    • Breast cancer
    • Prostate cancer
    • Esophageal cancer
    • Lung cancer
    • Liver cancer
    • Kidney cancer
    • Ovarian cancer

Diabetes (types 1 and 2):

  • A position statement of the American Diabetes Associated from 2016 states that regular exercise may delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes, while also providing additional health benefits to diabetes type 1 patients [6].

Heart disease and hypertension:

  • Frequent exercise can lower cardiovascular risk, while also acting as a treatment method for individuals with heart disease, according to a study published in the Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine [7].
  • A scientific publication from 2015 shows that regular aerobic training can decrease the resting systolic blood pressure in individuals diagnosed with hypertension [8].

High cholesterol levels:

  • Researchers from the Sports Medicine journal found that engaging in frequent physical activity increases the good (HDL) cholesterol while lowering the bad (LDL) one [9].

Clearly, being physically active is a great way to fight off a number of chronic diseases.

4. Regular Exercise Boosts Your Energy Levels

Engaging in some sort of physical activity is one of the best ways for helping you feel more energetic.

There are many studies to support this and here are a few of them:

  • One study found that 6 weeks of physical training decreased the feelings of fatigue in individuals who suffered from persistent fatigue [10].
  • A scientific review from 2017 concluded that exercise leads to a notable boost in energy levels in people with health conditions such as CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) [11].
  • Regular exercise can also increase the energy of people suffering from cancer, according to research published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science [12].

5. Regular Exercise Improves Your Sex Life

Another great benefit of being physically active is that it can make things better for and your partner in the bedroom.

Here’s what studies reveal:

  • One scientific review found that working out for at least 160 minutes each week (for 6 months) produces significant improvements in the erectile function of men [13].
  • Adults who engage in exercise weekly experience greater sexual performance and pleasure, based on a Journal of Sexual Medicine study [14].

Thus, both men and women can see notable improvements in the bedroom if they start working out regularly.

6. Regular Exercise Boosts Brain Health and Memory

Working out is a great way for giving you a mental boost as being active improves your blood flow, which means more blood and oxygen go to your brain.

Exercise increase cognitive functions, as shown by relevant studies show:

  • One scientific review reveals that physical exercise improves brain health with potential benefits for cognitive abilities in older individuals [15].
  • Another scientific review states that the improvement in the cognitive function of people who exercise remains even when they’re older [16].

And if you’re wondering how all of this is related to memory – memory is a cognitive process.

This means that any improvements in your cognitive function will also have a positive impact on your memory.

7. Regular Exercise Decreases Pain

Dealing with chronic pain truly sucks, but you can actually reduce your pain via exercise.

Here’s what research has to say about this:

  • One study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concludes that people who engage in physical training see a decrease in their chronic pain and improvements in their overall quality of life [17].
  • A 2014 research concluded that those who do aerobic exercise (e.g. cycling) regularly experienced an increase in their pain tolerance as opposed to individuals who don’t work out [18].

It might seem counter-productive that being physically active actually lowers your pain, but this is exactly what studies reveal.

Benefits of regular exercise, a happy man and a woman running

8. Regular Exercise Can Boost Your Mood

If you’ve ever exercised before you’ll know that although tired, you’ll feel much better after the workout.

It even provides great long-term mood-boosting if you train on a regular basis.

And relevant scientific literature backs this up:

  • One study published in the Brain Plasticity Journal shows that physical training increases the brain’s sensitivity to norepinephrine and serotonin, which are 2 hormones known for their depression-relieving effects [19].

This means that you can use exercise as an effective tool for improving your mood,

9. Regular Exercise Improves Muscle and Bone Mass

Getting stronger muscles is automatically associated with certain types of exercise such as weightlifting, but it’s actually good for your bones too.

Read what the studies say:

  • One particular systematic review from 2019 found that physical exercise stimulates the release of hormones that help muscles absorb amino acids, which helps them grow bigger and stronger [20].
  • Physical activity helps maximize bone density during youthhood, while also acting as a potent method for the prevention of osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) at later life [21].

Note that resistance training (e.g. weightlifting) is the go-to type of physical activity for getting bigger muscles and stronger bones.

10. Regular Exercise Can Improve Your Skin Health

Oxidative stress is one of the main factors that have a negative impact on your skin.

This results from the free radicals that affect our bodies and these can damage the cell structure of your skin.

Thankfully, research shows that regular physical activity can help with this:

  •  One study from 2014 found that frequent moderate exercise leads to an increase in the production of natural antioxidants in the body that helps protect skin cells from damage (oxidative stress) [22].
  • Research published in the Aging Cell peer-reviewed journal shows that physical activity stimulates blood flow and causes skin cell adaptations that can have a positive effect on skin aging [23].

11. Regular Exercise Can Help You Live Longer

It’s not difficult to see how engaging in physical activity on a regular basis can have a positive effect on your longevity.

That’s due to all the amazing health benefits of regular exercise and scientific publications back this up:

  • A scientific review from 2018 concludes that there’s overwhelming evidence that frequent exercise is associated with a longer lifespan [24].

Even more astonishingly, the same researchers found that lifelong exercise helps battle 40 different chronic conditions.

12. Regular Exercise Improves Body Composition

One of the most obvious benefits of exercising regularly is that it improves your overall body composition and function.

The term body composition stands for the amount of muscle, fat, bone and water in your body.

This is what relevant studies have to say:

  • A systematic review from 2017 found that exercise (resistance training, aerobic training or a combination) can have a moderate-to-large impact on physical functioning, muscle strength and body composition [25].

Thus, an improved body composition means stronger muscles and bones with a decrease in body fat percentage.

13. Regular Exercise Fights Depressions

Not only does regular exercise improve your mood, but it also helps battle depression and anxiety.

This is what scientific literature shows:

  • One study published in the Behavior Therapy journal found that physical activity of any kind helped individuals diagnosed with depression to see an improvement in their condition [26].
  • A systematic review from 2017 that gathered data from 19 different studies, reveals that physically active individuals who withdraw from exercise (even only for a few weeks) result in increased symptoms of anxiety and depression [27].

In addition to directly fighting depression, withdrawing from regular physical training can also make you feel depressed.

14. Regular Exercise Reduces the Risk of Cancer

Regular physical activity can have a positive impact on lowering the risk of some types of cancer.

As previously cited in benefit #3 of regular exercise, research backs this up:

  • According to the American Cancer Society, regular exercise helps lower the risk of some cancers such as lung, breast, kidney, gastric, prostate, thyroid and liver cancer [5].

This can be truly revealing information to some, especially if you’ve been looking for natural ways for reducing the risk of cancer.

15. Regular Exercise Helps with Osteoporosis

Since regular physical activity improves bone health, it also helps with osteoporosis (bone loss).

This is what research has to say about this:

  • According to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bones Diseases National Resource Center, exercise can be used to treat and prevent osteoporosis at any age [28].

And as you already know, working out regularly also boosts your overall bone health.

16. Regular Exercise Helps Prevent Falls

Fall prevention becomes increasingly important as we grow older and exercising regularly can help.

This is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US says about this:

  • The CDC states that physical activity such as resistance training, balance training and aerobic training can help reduce the risk of falls in older individuals [29].

These fall prevention effects are directly related to being in better shape and having stronger and healthier bones.

Benefits of regular exercise, a personal trainer encouraging a gym goer

Practical Tips for Starting to Exercise Regularly

Engaging in physical activity on a regular basis can be a problem for some people.

But here are some great tips that you can follow to make exercise part of your regular routine:

  • Make sure you have an end goal – You can begin physical exercise for purely health reasons or to simply look better. Regardless, ensure that you have a goal and stick to it.
  • Track your progress – Once you have a clear goal in mind, make it a habit to track your progress, either through a fitness app or by keeping an exercise log.
  • Make everyday activities more physically challenging – Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car further from your destination so that you walk more etc.
  • Get a workout partner – It can be your partner, family member or a friend. But a workout partner can boost your motivation and make working out more enjoyable.
  • Join an exercise class or group – There are plenty of options to choose from, including amateur sports teams, dance classes and hiking clubs.
  • Consider hiring a personal trainer – They have the needed knowledge and experience to properly motivate you and tell you how and what exercises to perform for best results.
  • Don’t rush things – Take things one workout at a time as progress can be slow. Just don’t force it by training too much because you can overtrain.
  • Don’t stick to the same exercise routine – Mix things up by alternating between different types of exercise e.g. weightlifting, running, swimming etc.

Eventually, it’s all about being motivated enough to add physical exercise to your daily routine and make it a part of your life.

Benefits of regular exercise, a man with an injured leg
To help avoid this, follow the government-supported guidelines below.

Important Physical Exercise Safety Guidelines

These are the primary guidelines for adults courtesy of the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the US Department of Health and Human Services:

The Primary Guidelines for Adults

  • Adults should perform aerobic exercise for at least 2 hours and 3 minutes (150 minutes) to 5 hours (300 minutes) per week using moderate intensity. For high-intensity workouts (or a combination of moderate and high-intensity aerobic training), the recommended weekly amount is between 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) to 2 hours and 3 minutes (150 minutes).  Ideally, this should be spread into equally long training sessions throughout the week.
  • Strength training that targets all major muscle groups should be performed at moderate-to-high intensity done twice (or more) times a week.
  • Try to sit less and move more during the day as even minimal physical activity is better than being completely sedentary.
  • There are additional benefits from regular exercise when you go beyond the 5 hours (300 minutes) amount of moderate-intensity training per week.

The Primary Guidelines for Safe Physical Activity

  • Begin with low-intensity activities and slowly increase the volume and intensity of your workouts.
  • Realize that there’s always the risk of injury, but exercise is pretty safe for most people.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, sports gear and exercise in a safe environment.
  • Make sure that you’re monitored by a health care provider if you have underlying chronic conditions or symptoms.
  • Stick to a training program that’s appropriate to your current fitness level and health goals.

All of these helpful tips can lower the risk of injuries and make physical exercise more pleasant and rewarding.

Conclusion

Regular exercise has proven evidence-based benefits for your mental and physical wellbeing.

Being physically active is beneficial for both young and old people, regardless of their body type.

While the specific type of physical activities that you can engage in on a regular basis can range from swimming and running to dancing.

However, it’s important to start slow by focusing on low-intensity exercise as you build your strength and improve your fitness level.

But the key factor to see results and experience the amazing benefits of regular exercise is consistency.

You have to make physical exercise part of your weekly routine for long-term success.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27901037/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30328967/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22884182/
  5. https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591
  6. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/39/11/2065/37249/Physical-Activity-Exercise-and-Diabetes-A-Position
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6557987/
  8. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11906-015-0600-y
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3906547/
  10. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21641846.2013.843266
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27995604/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6742679/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5960035/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31155388/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24379659/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25773610/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28087891/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24504426/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5928534/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28053920/
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24568458/
  23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25902870/
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28507196/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27755209/
  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27423168/
  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28625704/
  28. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/exercise/exercise-your-bone-health
  29. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm#increase
  30. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/benefits-of-exercise
  31. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-exercise
  32. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153390
  33. https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html
  34. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf

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