Very few lifestyle choices are as impactful as physical activity, and physical activity doesn’t require significant time commitments or intensity! Any space you can create for this area of primary food will benefit you in multiple ways.
Just seven hours of activity per week decreases the risk of premature death by 40%, and studies show that both moderate and vigorous physical activity – even short bursts of less than 10 minutes – can greatly increase life span and daily quality of life.
Physical activity can boost energy, improve sleep quality, and support a healthy weight. Plus, higher fitness levels may offset adverse health consequences of prolonged screen time.
This is a rich area of ongoing research, so new studies are popping up regularly. We know that physical activity is beneficial, but the more we learn, the more we can inspire and motivate ourselves and others to make physical activity an integral part of daily life.
Read on to learn some of the physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits of physical activity.
It’s easy to demonstrate how fitness can positively impact all areas of life.
Most research focuses on physical benefits, followed by mental and emotional benefits. However, one of the overarching benefits of physical activity is that
it promotes self-connection. It can create feelings of embodiment, or being present in your body. It can also motivate you to make choices more in line with your personal needs and values.
When it comes to health, empowerment forms the foundation of sustainable change, and physical activity is the perfect example. Making time for regular exercise and movement can greatly improve your daily functioning and quality of life.
- Strengthens the heart
- Increases circulation and delivers oxygen and nutrients to tissue
- Supports skin health
- Lowers blood pressure
- Supports metabolism (which helps with weight management)
- Promotes regular bowel movements
- Supports gut health
- Increases insulin sensitivity and the body’s ability to clear glucose effectively
- Strengthens immune system
- Can reduce inflammation by changing blood characteristics
- Increases muscle strength, which increases lean body mass and metabolism (resting metabolic rate)
- Improves muscular functioning, neuromuscular stabilization, and coordination, which reduces injury and chronic pain
- Can improve cognitive functioning (weight-bearing leg exercises in particular can affect brain and neurological health)
- Can improve awareness of how the body is moving and where it is in space (especially exercises that incorporate balance)
- Can improve reaction time
- Supports fertility for men and women (by supporting a healthy body weight)
- Improves energy levels and stamina
- Increases strength, endurance, and flexibility
- Boosts confidence
- May enhance arousal for women and decrease the risk of erectile dysfunction
- Strengthens lungs
- Helps the body use oxygen and remove carbon dioxide more efficiently
- Increases oxygen capacity
- Increases bone density (especially weight-bearing exercises)
- Reduces the risk of and can even reverse osteopenia
- Reduces the risk of fractures and other injuries
The emotional benefits of physical activity are powerful and far-reaching.
For example, physical activity can:
- reduce depression and anxiety
- reduce and help manage stress
- produce endorphins and induce “feel good” emotions13
- increase self-esteem, body confidence, and feelings of empowerment
In fact, research has found that exercise can serve as the primary pharmacological intervention in psychiatric facilities, significantly reducing symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and anger – though symptoms can return as soon as 1–2 weeks after stopping exercise.
Physical activity also supports emotional health in multiple areas of primary food. It can increase feelings of joy by boosting confidence and engaging in activities that excite you. If you’re exercising with people you enjoy spending time with, you’re also nourishing relationships and social life.
Research has found there might be a “sweet spot” of physical activity. For example, one study of 1.2 million Americans determined that exercising for about 45 minutes, 3–5 days per week, held the greatest mental health benefits.
According to this study, more does not equal better! Extreme exercise habits actually decrease mental health. As with all areas of primary food, it’s important to find a balance that works for you.
Physical activity offers many impressive cognitive benefits, including:
- Intelligence: Both being aerobically fit and the process of gaining aerobic fitness can boost intelligence.
- Language: Aerobic fitness can improve word production.
- Working memory: As little as 15 minutes of cardio can improve motor skillretention and may increase the brain’s ability to make neural connections.
- Alzheimer’s: Exercise may delay the start or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.
- Dementia: Greater cardiovascular fitness might greatly reduce the risk of developing dementia – up to 88%, according to one study of 1,500 women in Sweden.
Physical activity can “defy” the aging process! One study found that people who exercised regularly had the immunity, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels of a younger person. They also felt more independent and productive. Having a more active lifestyle and feeling more in control can also make you feel younger than you actually are.
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