Benefits of Regular Physical Activity (That Aren’t Weight Loss)
Exercise has amazing benefits for your health. While many people focus on weight, there are many other advantages of working out regularly.
Physical activity has many benefits, and those benefits increase the more regularly you exercise. One of the first benefits that may come to mind is weight loss. While maintaining a healthy weight is important, weight is not always an accurate indicator of health. There are many other reasons to exercise. Here are just a few of the many other ways regular physical activity benefits your mind and your body:
- Strengthens bones. As you strengthen muscles, you also strengthen your bones.
Each time you move, your muscles pull on your bones, and bones respond with increased strength. Regular physical activity can prevent calcium loss in bones and help conserve existing bone mass.
- Improves flexibility. Regular physical activity warms up your muscles and helps them stretch more. The more you build strength through a full range of motion, your muscles will become more flexible. Increased flexibility helps with balance, too.
Related: Stretching 101: All You Need to Know
- Boosts mood. Regular physical activity has been proven to help boost mood and help with mental health. Many researchers began studying the relationship between exercise and mental health after the coronavirus pandemic started because so many people began experiencing symptoms of anxiety. In a study published in 2022, researchers studied how physical exercise affected people’s depression and anxiety during the pandemic. The study found that people who exercised regularly felt more hopeful. The study also posits that exercise is an effective method for reducing anxiety and depression as well as for preventing depression and anxiety symptoms from happening in the first place.
- Supports the immune system. No one likes getting the flu or feeling under the weather. Rather than taking Vitamin C supplements, try working out. Physical activity helps support your immune system by moving your blood and lymphatic fluid through your body. White blood cells flow more freely to areas as your heart rate increases and your blood pumps faster. The white blood cells attack viruses and bacteria during activity, and the increased immune response can last for up to three hours after you stop exercising.
- Prevents diseases. While exercise is improving your physical health, it’s also actively staving off diseases. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of strokes, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and many types of cancer.
- Reduces risk of injury. Regular exercise strengthens your muscles and bones so that when you perform sudden exercise, your body is more prepared, thus reducing the risk of injury. This is especially true for older adults. As people age, they tend to have a higher risk of falling and becoming injured. In fact, fall-related injuries are the leading cause of accident-related death for older adults. Regular exercise prevents many falls and reduces the risk of injury from falling. Be careful, though, as too much exercise or improper technique can actually cause injury.
- Promotes better sleep. Getting better sleep is one of the major benefits of regular physical activity. A study done in Europe confirmed that exercise improved both subjective and objective measures of sleep quality. And the best part: you don’t have to be a major athlete to get this benefit. The study had groups of participants do different amounts of exercises, ranging from basic physical activity to high-intensity interval training (HIIT). All groups that exercised saw improvement in their sleep quality.
- Offers chances for socializing. If working out seems overwhelming or lonely, try getting exercise with someone else. You can join a hiking group, pick up a new sport, or simply ask friends to come with you on a walk. Physical activity is a great way to socialize and meet new friends. Additionally, people who do exercise programs with friends are 42% more likely to complete their goal than people who try to do it alone. If you want the benefits of the exercise, you’ll probably be more successful if you do it as part of a team—and you just might make some friends along the way.