Benefits of Exercise


Most of us know that exercise, physical activity of most any kind, is good for us. But perhaps individuals don’t realize that exercise not only makes us look good and feel good, but it improves our health in a profound way. Rigorous research shows that regular physical activity decreases our risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and even many types of cancer. Moreover, exercise is not only essential for physical health but also crucial for emotional health.


Several studies have correlated the amount of physical activity with decrease in chronic diseases and increase in physical and mental well being. Risk for heart disease and stroke decreases as the amount of physical activity increases. Studies also show individuals with heart disease, who start an exercise regimen can reduce their risk of future heart attacks. In addition, moderately vigorous physical exercise for 45 minutes to 60 minutes a day reduces risk for colon cancer and breast cancer. Similarly, the greater the intensity and duration of exercise, the lower the risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis.


Here is a summary of recommendation from the CDC(Center of Disease Control) regarding the duration and intensity of exercise in adults.

  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalence combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.

Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include brisk walking, bicycling, mowing lawn or playing tennis. Hiking(uphill), lap swimming, fast bicycling, Zumba and other similar workouts and playing basketball are examples of vigorous-intensity exercises.


The recommendations indicate that greater health benefits are attained if moderate intensity exercise is increased to 300 minutes and vigorous exercise to 150 minutes in a week.


Exercise has been shown to be as effective in treating depression as SSRI, most common form of antidepressants. In fact, the relapse rate of depression is nearly 4x less with patients treated with exercise than those treated with antidepressant medications such as Zoloft(SSRI). However, only 40% of patients report being offered exercise as a viable treatment option by their health care provider. And, oftentimes, patients believe that a pill will work better for them. But, these attitudes are not difficult to understand–there are no TV advertisements extolling the virtues of running unlike antidepressant medications.


Fortunately, the awareness of a healthy lifestyle which includes, plant based nutrition, mindfulness activities(such as yoga and meditation) and physical exercise is spreading. In fact, there is a new medical specialty(Lifestyle Medicine) which uses evidenced based research and prescribes alteration of lifestyle to combat a variety of physical and emotional ailments.

We have always known deep down, that a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise is crucial for our health. Fortunately, now there’s plenty of research that not only proves this but also quantifies the benefits.

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