For many people, a big reason for exercising is the desire to lose some excess weight. But for many, despite regular exercise their weight stays the same.
It’s important to stay motivated by remembering that the health benefits of regular exercise stretch way beyond weight loss, and that these benefits occur regardless of whether you lose weight.
Maybe you knew some of these benefits already, but I think it’s really telling when you see the shear volume and variety of health benefits that regular exercise has.
Let’s divide these health benefits into four categories; cardiovascular benefits, cognitive benefits, ageing-related benefits and other benefits.
These are the big benefits we probably think about with exercise, other than just straight weight loss. The body responds to regular exercise by making changes to the heart and blood vessels to make them more efficient. Exercise also reduces chronic systemic inflammation. Between these two effects, exercise helps to reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels and in turn reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and blood clots.
Exercise has been shown to improve the functioning of brain cells. As a result, exercise has been shown to have a wide range of cognitive benefits, including improved mood, improved memory, reduced risk of depression and other mental illnesses, improved problem-solving capacity, reduced risk of dementia. Regular exercise has even been shown to improve children’s school results!
Exercise slows the ageing-related changes in your body’s cells. As a result, particularly due to this effect on skeletal muscle cells, regular exercise reduces your risk of suffering from frailty, reduced mobility, balance impairment and falls as you get older. Exercise also stimulates better regeneration of your bone and cartilage cells, leading to reduced risk / effects of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
The main other benefit of exercise is that it reduces systemic, chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is believed to have a number of negative health effects, including on systems listed above.
Other “other” benefits of exercise which have been shown in clinical studies include reduced risk of many cancers, improved sleep quality, reduced fatigue and reduced symptoms in chronic pain-sufferers.
Seeing as it’s an impressive list, here’s a (probably incomplete) list of the health benefits that exercise has been shown to have:
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