What regular exercise does for you

Exercise is good for you!

People are always telling us that exercise is good for us, but what do they mean specifically? In reality, exercise does so much more than just helping you to maintain a healthy weight and energy levels.

Here’s what it can do for you:

Increase the performance of your brain

Exercise releases natural chemicals into your brain such as serotonin. These can have a strong effect on your mood, helping to reduce anxiety, stress and depression.

Exercise also triggers the release of naturally-produced chemicals that protect brain cells and keep them performing at top speed. At any age, exercise boosts concentration simply by helping you get a restful nights’ sleep. Ironically, being unfit often makes you susceptible to tiredness – and being tired often means you don’t exercise enough. Gradually increasing your activity levels will give you more energy.

Reduce fat

Combined with healthy eating, exercise is crucial to preventing obesity and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Activity encourages the body to use up stored fat and developing your muscles helps burn more calories when you are not at the gym.

Reduce blood pressure

High blood pressure is caused by a narrowing of your arteries. Exercise increases the amount of “good cholesterol” in your blood which helps to transport fat away from your arteries, which helps in the prevention and management of high blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure leads to heart disease and stroke.

Improve confidence, self-belief and general wellbeing

Exercise releases chemicals in your body called endorphins which make you feel great after a workout session and help to boost self-confidence. Improving your posture, heart and lungs, health and stress levels will all contribute to greater sense of wellbeing.

Stronger bones

Regular exercise produces stronger bones. This is especially important for women who are at risk from osteoporosis or brittle bone disease. Activities such as brisk walking, skipping, aerobics and weight training are particularly useful.

Build muscle strength and flexibility

You can’t bank muscles. It is a case of use them or lose them. Regular exercise helps keep muscles supple and strong. Anything that involves reaching, bending and the stretching of muscle groups can help you keep a full range of movement and stay independent when you get older.

Strengthening your muscles with activities such as stair climbing, carrying shopping, weight training and walking will help give you good balance and posture and reduce your risk of falling. Improved muscle tone can help with your shape, making you feel and look better.

Fight disease

Inactivity increases your risk of colon and breast cancer and is also linked to cancers of the womb, lung and prostate. Being very active can halve your risk of colon cancer. High blood pressure can speed up the progress of kidney disease. Exercise helps to control blood pressure and so helps to look after your kidneys.

Maintain a healthy heart

Your heart is a muscle, so the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Aerobic activities like brisk walking, dancing, cycling or swimming will help your heart become a more efficient pump. These types of exercise will also reduce blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, improve blood flow and therefore reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and strokes.

Useful links

National Health Service
British Heart Foundation