The health benefits of regular exercise.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that people who lead active lifestyles are less likely to suffer from illness and more likely to live longer. Exercise not only makes you physically fitter, it also improves your mental health and general sense of wellbeing. Some of the health benefits of exercise are:
- Exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease), including heart disease and stroke, are the biggest cause of illness and death in the UK. Inactive people have almost double the risk of dying from heart disease compared with people who are active. So if you don't do any exercise at all, even doing a little more physical activity - for example, walking each day - can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Doing exercise can also help to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension). You are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack if you have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is common - about half of all people aged between 65 and 74 have it - but it has no symptoms. Exercise can help to prevent high blood pressure, and reduce it if yours is already too high.
- If you need to improve your cholesterol levels, exercise can help. There are two types of cholesterol - low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is sometimes called "bad" cholesterol; HDL cholesterol is sometimes called "good" cholesterol. High levels of LDL and low levels of HDL increase the risk of heart disease.
Studies show that regular exercise such as brisk walking or running is linked to higher levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Being active helps to increase levels of "good" cholesterol.
- Exercise can help to promote healthy blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes develops in at least one in 10 people, causing increased blood sugar levels.
- Poorly controlled blood sugar levels can eventually damage your eyes, nerves, kidneys and arteries.
The more exercise you do, the lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Exercise is especially important if you are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, for example if you are overweight, have high blood pressure or have close family members with the condition.
Exercise is also good for you if you already have type 2 diabetes - regular physical activity can help control your blood sugar levels.
- You are more likely to have joint pain or lower back pain if you don't do any exercise. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint problem and affects nearly everyone over the age of 60. Regular, moderate activity, especially walking, has been linked to a lower risk of osteoarthritis.
Eight out of 10 people have lower back pain at some time in their lives, but people who exercise are less likely to suffer from it.
Osteoporosis (low bone density) is when your bones become brittle and prone to fracture. You can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis by doing high-impact exercise such as running and skipping. This puts weight on your bones, increases bone density in younger people and slows down their degeneration later in life. But choose low-impact, weight-bearing exercise, such as gentle walking or swimming, if you already have osteoporosis.
- Exercise can reduce the risk of certain cancers. You are less likely to develop cancer if you are physically active. There is especially clear evidence that exercise protects against colon cancer and against breast cancer in women who have been through the menopause. Some studies suggest that physical activity may also help prevent lung and endometrial cancers.
- Doing exercise can help you to manage your weight. Excess calories are stored as fat, so you put on weight when you eat more calories than you use. Physical activity uses calories and so helps to create a healthy energy balance. For many people, exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy weight.
You are obese if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over. Obesity doubles your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It also increases the possibility that you will develop joint problems and some cancers.
Obesity is caused by an imbalance between your energy intake from food and energy output through activity and metabolism (the chemical reactions going on in your body). You are more likely to be obese if you are inactive. Physical activity alone can help you lose weight if you are overweight or obese - the more you do, the more you will lose. However, combining exercise with a healthy diet will mean you lose weight faster.
- Exercise can both help prevent and treat mental illness. Leading an inactive lifestyle for long periods of time means you are more likely to suffer from clinical depression. Some studies suggest that regular exercise is at least as effective for treating depression as talking treatments or medicines, with fewer side-effects than medicines.
You may also benefit from exercise if you have anxiety-related disorders, such as phobias, panic attacks or stress.
- You are likely to feel happier, more satisfied with life and have an improved sense of wellbeing if you are physically active. Introduce regular exercise into your routine and you should sleep better, lower your stress levels and boost your self-image. It's also possible that it may improve brain function in children and older adults.
For further information about services available in Solihull please go to www.solihullactive.co.uk/homepage