12 Reasons to Increase Physical Activity
By Laura N Brown, MS, RD, LDN, ACSM-CPT
Increasing daily physical activity can deliver many benefits, all of which you do not want to miss out on. Here are some of the top reasons to get up and get moving!
1. Improve Mood. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals produced naturally in the brain that can help us cope with stress. In fact, endorphins are often called “feel-good” chemicals because they are proven to boost happiness. Exercise can help promote relaxation and reduce depression and anxiety.
2. Change Body Composition and Manage Weight. Physical activity increases energy expenditure, which can help to prevent excessive weight gain and/or maintain weight loss. Furthermore, physical activity can help promote fat loss and preserve or increase muscle mass, leading to positive changes in body composition.
3. Increase Energy Levels. A single bout of exercise increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, and regular sessions can improve the efficiency of the cardiovascular system. If you are regularly experiencing an afternoon slump, pass on the caffeine and opt for a quick walk around your neighborhood for a natural energy boost.
4. Positively Influence Food Choices. Starting an exercise routine may inspire you to make healthier food choices. Research from the International Journal of Obesity found new exercisers eat more nutritious foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and nuts. In fact, the more a person exercised and the higher intensity of that exercise, the more the person’s diet tended to improve. Longer exercise duration was also related to a decreased preference for high-fat foods.
5. Decrease Risk for Chronic Diseases. It is well known that regular participation in physical activity can significantly decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
6. Improve Blood Sugar Control. Regular participation in physical activity, particularly resistance training, is an effective intervention for glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Excitingly, new research indicates strength training may help delay diabetes progression and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in prediabetics, likely through increasing glucose uptake in active muscles.
7. Decrease Risk for Severe COVID Outcome. Research from the British Journal of Sport Medicine found physical activity associated with decreased risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes. Specifically, consistently inactive individuals were at a significantly higher risk for hospitalization, ICU admission, and death after getting COVID-19 than individuals who were active for at least 150 minutes per week.
8. Keep You Sharp as You Age. When combined with a well-balanced diet, moderate-intensity aerobic activity may help improve cognitive function in older adults. In fact, some research indicates exercise may improve resilience towards Alzheimer’s disease.
9. Help You Get a Good Night’s Rest. Many research studies agree that regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality. Moderate aerobic exercise increases slow-wave or deep sleep, which is when the brain and body recover and rejuvenate from a long day. One word of caution – in some individuals, exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect.
10. Strengthen Bones. Weight-bearing and resistance exercise places stress on the bones, which in turn strengthens them. Regular exercise is a key aspect of helping treat and prevents the development of osteoporosis.
11. Save Money. The American Heart Association estimates that walking just 30 minutes 5 days per week has the potential to save you up to $2,500 in health care costs per year.
12. Most importantly... Have fun! Physical activity can be an opportunity to unwind, spend time outdoors, and participate in activities you enjoy! It can also give you a chance to connect with friends or family. Challenge yourself to try something new, whether going for a hike, enjoying a dance class, or joining a sports team.
How much physical activity do you need?
According to the Center for Disease Control, adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and 2 days per week of muscle-strengthening activities. Split this up; however it best fits your schedule and start small. If you are currently inactive, aim to walk for 10 minutes per day 3 days per week, and slowly increase the duration and frequency of your walks. Remember – just a little bit can make a difference in your health!