Exercise and its benefits

Physically active individuals have a much better health outlook than their sedentary peers. Even modest regular physical activity has a positive influence on people’s health and vitality. A minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity a day most days of the week will benefit health and assist with weight loss. A formal workout is not necessary
to have these benefits; a brisk walk will suffice (although a more vigorous workout will suffice that much more).

What is Exercise?

Exercise is a set of activities that one does to become healthier and more fit. Exercise is a broad category of activities, including bicycling, running, tennis, and more. Thus, exercise is separated into several categories, described below.

Types of Exercise

There are two main types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise describes exercise that is done over longer periods of time (e.g. biking, swimming, etc.) and does not require much intensity at any one point in time. By contrast, anaerobic exercise defines exercise done in short stints with high intensity (e.g. weight lifting).

Physical Benefits of Exercise

Exercise reduces people’s chances of developing and dying of illnesses such as heart disease or stroke because it lowers risk factors for illness such as triglyceride and overall cholesterol levels, while improving the level of HDL (the “good” cholesterol which is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease). Weight-bearing exercise and strength training activities help to maintain or increase bone mass, reducing a person’s risk for osteoarthritis and associated bone fractures. Regular exercise also lowers resting blood pressure rates for hours after an exercise session is over. In addition, moderate exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes. People with arthritis who exercise often experience more strength and flexibility in their affected joints as well as reduced pain levels. Furthermore, exercise may delay or prevent the development of arthritis in other joints. Regular walking of over a mile a day has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke significantly. Exercise even appears to reduce the risk of developing some cancers, especially breast and colon cancer. Sedentary individuals often complain of being too exhausted to work out. Ironically, however, exercise improves people’s capacity for work so that people who exercise on a regular basis actually have more energy and greater strength and endurance for daily activities than their sedentary peers. The feeling of increased energy and vitality is one of the first things people tend to notice a few weeks after beginning to work out on a regular basis. Physically fit people are stronger, healthier and more energetic than sedentary people. They are able to solve problems more readily, deal with stress more effectively, think faster and remember things more efficiently. Overall, activities of daily life become less of a chore for active people. An exercise session burns calories, elevates one’s metabolic rate, preserves and builds lean muscle mass, suppresses appetite, helps people to relax, improves sleep, and reduces muscular tension, among many other benefits. All of these benefits work together to make exercise vital for maintaining weight loss. That glow of relaxation after a workout is restorative. Research shows that one of the best things a person can do when depressed is to force themselves to exercise as the mood elevation effect is immediate.

Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

How much exercise do we need?

The best reference to know how much you will need is your doctor, as he/she will tell you how much you must exercise. However, it is also best to refer to the Physical Activity Pyramid, which contains guidelines on how to exercise. Generally, young adults must exercise moderately to vigorously for at least 1 hour a day, with a variety (changing between aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening).

Risks of not exercising

One of the reasons many individuals do not attempt an exercise program is because they feel they are not very athletic or coordinated. However, once such individuals start an exercise program, they discover that they can indeed work out successfully, gaining muscle tone and strength, improving their stamina, and improving how they feel emotionally. Such a revelation can be very empowering. It is this increased sense of self-confidence and improved sense of well-being that eventually becomes the sustaining force that helps people to continue their exercise program. Exercising outside the home, whether in the great outdoors, at a gym or recreation center, in an exercise class, sport group, walking or running club, etc., all lead to encounters with other people who also enjoy working out. New acquaintances and friendships develop readily in such contexts. Over time, having the pleasure of one’s exercise group’s company becomes another reason to exercise.

FITT Principles

FITT is an acronym that stands for Frequency, Intensity, Type, and Time, which are major elements of exercise. Frequency is how often you exercise, intensity describes how hard you exercise, Type describes whether your exercise is aerobic or anaerobic, and Time describes how long you exercise. Using the FITT principles can help you to better plan your exercise routine.

Tips to incorporate exercise into your life

Family relationships can benefit from exercise too. On days when the weather is nice the entire family may enjoy a walk or the couple a bike ride with the children in child seats behind the parents. If the family is involved in that very active phase of rearing young children, a parent’s exercise break between work and child responsibilities will likely help them to be a calmer, more able parent. Parents who exercise regularly are more likely to pass these healthy habits down to their children, leading to improved well-being for everyone.


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