For the media

10 ways regular physical activity improves your health

By The Health News Team | December 15, 2023
People exercising with ropes outdoors

Ask any medical professional their top five tips for maintaining and improving health, and regular physical activity is sure to be at the top of the list. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1 in 4 adults meet recommended physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

The CDC recommends adults age 18 to 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity — such as brisk walking— each week. Activities that strengthen muscles — such as weight training— should be enjoyed at least two days a week.

But beyond simply being good for you, do you know what regular physical activity really does to improve your health and quality of life? According to the CDC, there are 10 immediate and long-term benefits.

Regular physical activity:

  1. Improves sleep quality

  2. Reduces feelings of anxiety

  3. Reduces blood pressure

  4. Reduces risks of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

  5. Reduces risk of depression

  6. Lowers risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes

  7. Lowers risk of certain cancers, including breast, colon and lung cancers

  8. Reduces risk of weight gain

  9. Improves bone health

  10. Reduces risks of falls

Additionally, the CDC reports more than 100,000 deaths could be prevented in the U.S. if adults increased their physical activity by just 10 minutes per day. Just about any aerobic activity is beneficial, as long as it’s done at a moderate or vigorous intensity.

Types of activities that improve your health

Moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity will raise your heart rate and cause you to break a sweat. So, you should be able to talk, but not sing, the words to your favorite song.

Examples of moderate-intensity activities include:

  • Walking fast

  • Doing water aerobics

  • Riding a bike on level ground or with a few small hills

  • Playing doubles tennis

  • Pushing a lawn mower

Vigorous-intensity activity will cause you to breathe hard and fast and increase your heart rate. If you’re activity is truly vigorous, you shouldn’t be able to say much without pausing for a breath.

Examples of vigorous-intensity activities include:

Muscle strengthening activities should target all the major muscle groups — legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. Activities that can strengthen your muscles include:

  • Lifting weights

  • Working with resistance bands

  • Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as pushups and situps

  • Heavy gardening

  • Some forms of yoga

Experts recommend you start slowly and work your way up to more time or more challenging activities. As always, talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.

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