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How can physical activity help me maintain my health?

Physical activity is important for everyone. The health benefits are vast, and include decreased blood pressure, improved blood sugar levels, lower triglyceride levels, less joint pain, and increased levels of energy. Physical activity lessens the risk of chronic diseases, which are responsible for five of the leading six causes of death in the United States. Just losing as little as 10 percent of your total body weight can show significant health benefits.

Physical activity can help you maintain your health in many ways. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that regular physical activity can help:

  • improve your mental health and mood
  • reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • reduce your risk of some cancers
  • strengthen your bones and muscles
  • control your weight
  • improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult
  • increase your chances of living healthier longer

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Kelly Traver
Internist

Whatever health goals you may have, the importance of a regular exercise program cannot be overstated. There are three components of fitness: cardio respiratory, strength, and flexibility:

  • First, having a regular exercise program is the most important predictor not only of weight loss but also of weight maintenance.
  • Physical activity also significantly reduces your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Physical activity reduces your risk of developing diabetes. When you exercise, your muscles release growth factors that stimulate an increased production of insulin receptors; these growth factors also help your circulating insulin work more efficiently. By improving the sensitivity of your cells' insulin receptors, you can either avoid developing diabetes or, if you already have diabetes, achieve better control of it.
  • Exercise also stimulates the immune system, so people who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to get infections. The risk of developing certain cancers, in particular breast and colon cancers, is reduced in those who exercise regularly. Regular exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 50 percent and colon cancer by 60 percent.
  • Memory is improved by aerobic exercise through an increase in BDNF, brain derived Neurotrophic (nerve growth) factor.
  • Exercise increases mental alertness. When you exercise, you produce more neurotransmitters such as nor epinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals increase your attention and motivation. Mood is enhanced by regular exercise.
  • Regular exercise often decreases chronic pain from any source. This is because exercise increases the release of endorphins, endocannabinoids, and serotonin, all of which increase a person's pain threshold.
  • Exercise also reduces joint pain from arthritis because it stimulates an increase in the production of synovial fluid, which bathes and lubricates the joints.
  • Sleep is greatly improved by regular exercise. Exercise accentuates your natural body temperature swings throughout the day, and this increases the amount of time you spend in the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep, stages three and four.
  • Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. When you exercise, your rapidly beating heart releases a chemical called atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), which crosses over to the brain and directly turns off the stress response.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.