Health Benefits of Exercise
Exercise is the closest thing we have to a perfect drug. No drug comes close to matching the numerous health benefits of exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) promotes an “Exercise is Medicine” campaign aimed at educating physicians on the health benefits of exercise, and how to prescribe exercise to patients. That’s great, but sad that such a campaign is necessary. Life is about motion. How enjoyable would life be if we could not move or be mobile? Not very enjoyable, would it? But, to maintain this wonderful ability we must work at it on a regular basis. This becomes more important as we age.
Unlike medications, exercise does not have to cost anything and is associated with few side effects. Certainly, it costs money to join a health club or buy exercise equipment for your home, but that’s relatively cheap compared to the direct and indirect costs of prescription medication plus the costs of seeing a doctor and diagnostic tests.
So what are the health benefits of exercise? First, the benefits depend on the type of exercise. We can break exercise down into three main category types; cardiovascular (endurance), resistant or strength training, and flexibility exercises.
Our cardiovascular, nervous/mental, metabolic, and musculoskeletal systems benefit the most from exercise. Let’s take a look at each of these systems more closely.
General Health Benefits of Exercise
- Exercise reduces risk of premature death.
- Exercise reduces risk of some cancers.
Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Exercise
- Exercise improves oxygen uptake.
- Exercise lowers blood pressure.
- Exercise lowers the risk of dying from heart disease.
- Exercise improves cholesterol profile.
- Exercise reduces triglyceride levels.
- Exercise improves lung capacity.
- Exercise reduces platelet aggregation (reducing risk of thrombus or blood clot).
- Exercise improves glycemic control reducing risk of diabetes.
- Exercise helps to achieve and maintain optimal body weight.
- Exercise improves metabolism.
- Exercise reduces depression and anxiety.
- Exercise improves psychological well-being.
- Exercise increases muscle mass (which improves metabolism).
- Exercise improves muscular strength.
- Exercise increases strength of tendons and ligaments (reducing risk of injury).
- Exercise helps to maintain bone density and strength.
- Exercise improves balance and functional ability in the elderly (reducing risk of falling).
Can you find one prescribed medication that can offer all the health benefits of exercise? Perhaps ACSM’s campaign should be “Exercise is Better than Medicine”.
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