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The Benefits of Exercise

by Deborah L. Mullen, CSCS

Here's a list of long- and short-term benefits from exercising and participating in physical activity, along with an explanation describing the difference between the two.

The Difference between Physical Activity and Exercise

Both regular exercise and increased physical activity add years to your life and life to your years. Health benefits are obtained from increasing the amount of any physical activity you do. The more you do, the greater the benefits. Physical activity is any movement that uses energy. Exercise is physical activity that is structured and is done at a certain intensity for a certain length of time. We engage in physical activity for health benefits if we wish to avoid disease and delay death. We engage in physical activity for fitness benefits in order to improve some components of physical fitness (cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, and body composition).

Long-Term Benefits

Decreases Risk of Heart Disease
Inactive people are 2x more likely to develop coronary artery disease (CAD) then active people.

Decreases Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Inactive people are 2x more likely to develop high blood pressure then active people.

Decreases Body Fat
Regular physical activity helps maintain optimal body weight and composition.High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Decreases Cholesterol Level
A high blood cholesterol level increases the risk of heart disease. Regular exercise raises the level of "good" cholesterol and lowers the level of the "bad" cholesterol.

Decreases Risk of Diabetes
Physical activity lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and increases glucose uptake for those who already have diabetes. Fit women have diabetes 66% less often than unfit women.

Decreases Risk of Cancer
Physical activity lowers the risk of colon and breast cancer.

Decreases Risk of Osteoporosis
Regular exercise delays bone loss and promotes bone formation.

Decreases Arthritis Symptoms
Regular exercise helps keep joints flexible and helps build muscle to support the joint.

Decreases Number of Sick Days
Exercisers feel sick almost 30% less often than non-exercisers.

Decreases Chance of Premature Death
Fit people live longer than unfit people.

Short-Term Benefits

Relaxes and Revitalizes
Physical activity reduces mental and muscular tension, and at the same time, increases concentration and energy level.

A Break From Daily Routine and Worries
Physical activity is like a mini-vacation—you’re allowed to have fun.

Helps You Feel Good About Yourself
Physical activity increases your self-esteem and self-confidence.

While many people start a physical activity program because of long-term benefits,
it’s the short-term benefits that keep them motivated to continue the habit.

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