Everyone knows people should exercise. Here are the most common reasons why.
Prevention of chronic diseases
If you or your parents have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, regular physical activity is as important in managing and preventing symptoms as medications.
Exercise, whether it is cardiovascular or strength training, can boost metabolism and help shed pounds. Exercise requires using calories, which is what the body needs to expend to attain a healthful weight.
Improvement of mood
Brain chemistry responds positively to exercise. Staying physically active can prevent depression, reduce stress, and make you feel more relaxed. Choosing a brisk walk instead of time in front of the television will help you manage tension.
Research shows that people who exercise fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly than those who do not exercise. Exercise actually increases your energy for most of the day, so exercising right before bed maybe is not the best idea.
Exercise increases muscle activity. To have metabolically active muscles, you do not need to have large muscles, just active ones. The more your muscles move, the more they burn calories, even after the workout. Both cardiovascular and weight training provide this benefit.
Any weight-bearing activity will help strengthen bones by causing muscle fibers to pull on them. Strong bones are especially important as you age and grow.
Regular exercise boosts the immune system by causing the blood to circulate more freely. It can reduce the frequency of flu, colds, and illness.
Improvement in cognitive functioning
Research shows that increased circulation of blood to the brain improves cognitive functioning. Exercisers are quicker with answers, thanks to more oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
Strong heart and lungs
Exercise makes the heart and lungs more efficient, strong, and resilient. Blood and oxygen flow increase when exercise forces the circulatory system to move blood through the body. The heart and lungs are responsible for managing the extra exertion, which makes them both stronger and more efficient.
Improved quality of life
People who exercise report they have better moods, sex lives, interpersonal relationships, and health than those who do not exercise. In nature, bodies are supposed to stay active. Those who move more report feeling better.
References and recommended readings
Hillman CH, Erickson KI, Kramer AF. Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9:58-65.
Mayo clinic. Exercise: 7 benefits of regular activity. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676. Accessed September 20, 2010.
WebMD. How regular exercise benefits teens. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/benefits-of-exercise. Accessed September 20, 2010.