Working out constitutes an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to staving off obesity -- but even if you're at a healthy weight, getting physically fit packs a number of benefits. Physical conditioning reinforces lifelong healthy habits in young people and can dramatically improve health and quality of life for seniors. Adults between those two extremes also benefit enormously from physical conditioning; it allows you to excel at strenuous occupations, reduces your risk of many chronic diseases, makes everyday tasks easier, and limits some of the physical effects of aging.
Control Chronic Conditions
Staying physically active reduces your risk of developing several types of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Exercise also reduces your risk of developing breast and colon cancers, and maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best ways of staving off type 2 diabetes. If you do happen to develop a chronic disease like arthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis or diabetes, exercise is often one of the best ways of managing your condition and reducing related symptoms.
Fight Back Against Aging
Aging is often accompanied by a decrease in all the functions of your muscles, including strength, endurance and flexibility. But strength training and stretching -- both part of a complete exercise regimen -- can minimize those effects. Even gentle physical activity can help you improve your balance and maintain mobility in your joints -- both of which help you maintain the quality of life you're used to and reduce your risk of a life-changing fall.
Stay Mentally Sharp
Just 45 minutes of walking, three times a week, can increase many aspects of cognitive function. It's never too late to start exercising for the sake of your brain or your body; the American College of Sports Medicine reports that just six to 12 months of regular activity can benefit older adults who were previously inactive. Moderate physical activity is also important for youth, and can enhance memory, learning and cognitive function.
Beat a Bad Mood
Numerous studies have shown that regular physical activity reduces the occurrence of mental disorders like depression, panic disorder and phobias. If you do have one of these mental conditions, regular physical activity can have a profound result on your symptoms, reducing the incidences of panic attacks, diminishing social anxiety and improving your mood. Exercise has even been shown to be a useful part of a quit smoking program, and can reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis.
- President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition: Why Is It Important?
- American Council on Exercise; ACE's Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals, 4th edition
- American College of Sports Medicine: Staying Mentally Sharp Through Physical Activity
- Journal of Preventive Medicine & Public Health: Exercise and Physical Activity in Mental Disorders: Clinical and Experimental Evidence
- National Institute on Aging: Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging
- National Institute on Aging: Exercise & Physical Activity: Chapter 1: Get Ready
- Developmental Neurorehabilitation: Exercise Is Brain Food
- Photo Credit Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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