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What Are The Health Benefits Of Exercise?

Most people know that regular exercise is good for their health, but how or why that is, is lesser understood.

Some people see exercise purely as a tool to change their physical appearance, which can lead to lack of motivation and consistency. While it's fine to have aesthetic goals, looking at exercise more holistically can help to keep you motivated to stay active, so that you can reap the health rewards of exercising regularly.  

In this article, we look at the different ways exercise can positively impact your health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically.

To stay healthy, the NHS recommends adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities[1]. However, adding in any form of exercise (even if it's just 10 minutes a day) will help to improve your health, so start with what you can and build this up where you can.

What are the health benefits of exercise?

Here are just a few of the many incredible benefits from living an active lifestyle:

  1. Improved heart and circulatory health

    Heart and circulatory diseases are a major problem around the world, leading to around 160,000 deaths each year in the UK alone[2]. Regular exercise can help to reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases in multiple ways.

    One way it does this is by improving the muscles' ability to filter oxygen from the blood more effectively, meaning your heart doesn't have to work so hard to pump blood around the body quickly, which can lower your blood pressure. Another way is by strengthening your heart and improving your circulation, which can help prevent heart attacks and diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease and heart attacks. Exercise can improve insulin resistance, which can help to reverse type 2 diabetes[3].

    Learn more about how exercise can improve your heart health here.

  2. Stronger muscles, bones, and joints

    You might be aware that exercising can build bigger, stronger muscles, but did you know that it strengthens all the tissues in your body? Regularly exercising helps to improve joint function and range of movement, create strong and flexible muscles, and even improve bone density -- all which help to protect against injury as we age.

  3. Weight control

    Weight (and BMI) isn't the be all and end all of health, but most people are healthiest when they have a good amount of muscle and not too much, or too little, fat. Studies show that obesity can increase the risk of a range of illnesses, such as heart disease and osteoarthritis, as well as other physical impairments like joint pain[4], while being underweight can lead to issues like osteoporosis, fertility issues, malnutrition, and poor immune function[5].

    Exercise (along with nutrition) can help to manage your weight and improve your body composition, whether that's building muscle or losing fat.  You can check out our How to Lose Weight hub for a range of articles for fat loss, or our beginners guide to bulking and cutting is an excellent starting point if you're hoping to build muscle mass.

  4. Better mood and stress management

    Exercise can be a great tool to improve your mental health. Every time you exercise, the body releases mood-enhancing chemicals called endorphins, which are commonly referred to as the happy hormones. The body naturally releases endorphins in response to stress or pain to help alleviate these symptoms and improve mood, and endorphins from exercise do the same thing. This makes exercise a great way to help cope with stress or poor mood. You can learn more about the mental health benefits of exercise here.

  5. Increased energy

    Exercise can help to boost your energy in both the short- and long-term. During exercise, the body releases endorphins and increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and brain, which can have a positive impact on energy levels straight after exercise. In the long run, exercising helps to increase the amount of energy our bodies produce, and improve endurance so that we get less fatigued doing everyday tasks. You can read more about how exercise boosts energy here.

  6. Better brain function

    There have been many scientific studies on exercise and cognition, and it is widely shown that exercise improves brain function[6], learning, and memory[7]. This can be indirectly, through reducing anxiety and stress, and directly, through increased oxygen to the brain and through the release of a hormone called irisin which impacts the part of the brain controlling learning. If you ever feel unable to concentrate or take in information, a short workout can do wonders!

  7. A better night's sleep

    Struggle to sleep? Exercise can help to improve the quantity and quality of sleep you get, and even help with insomnia. There are endless benefits to getting good sleep consistently, including more energy, better attention, improved balance of hunger and fullness hormones, reduced inflammation, and better immune function. Even without the other health benefits of exercise, improving sleep can make a huge difference in how you feel every day!

    You can check out our Can the Gym Really Help Me Sleep Better post to learn more about the ways regular exercise can help you fall asleep quicker and get a better night's sleep.

  8. Staying sociable

    Yes, being sociable is a health benefit! Studies show that social isolation and loneliness, particularly as we get older, has been linked to high risks of a range of physical and mental health conditions, like depression, high blood pressure and heart disease[8].

     Keeping fit is an excellent way to not only boost your physical health but also your social life as well. Whether you love running, circuits, hiking, cycling, or improving your personal best on the squat rack, there will be a thriving exercise community you can be a part of. Fitness classes are a great way to start, and many people make firm friends for life through running clubs or wellbeing groups. If you're feeling lonely, are struggling to meet people in a new area or are simply looking to expand your current friendship circle, then exercise groups can be an excellent approach.

These are just a few of the many incredible health benefits of regular exercise - others include a reduced risk of cancer, improved mobility and flexibility, a better sex life and a prolonged life expectancy. 

Want to get active but not sure where to start? Consider booking a session with one of our expert personal trainers who can help you plan the perfect exercise routine for your needs, or download the free PureGym app for a variety of workouts you can try at home or the gym.

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