The health Benefits of Physical Activity are often overlooked by fitness professionals. When most people think about exercise they think of a few select body parts such as the stomach, legs, or lungs. However, there are several other areas of the body that can be positively affected by regular physical activity.
The beneficial effects happen in generally fit individuals, in those at risk for developing certain chronic illnesses, and in those with existing chronic conditions or disabilities. Physical activity impacts many health conditions, and each individual’s level of activity impacts the different conditions.
Some of the better-known health Benefits of Physical Activity are better skin and weight control, reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, improved circulation, improved bone density, and joint health, reduced stress levels, better balance, more energy, improved memory, reduction in headaches, clearer thinking, prevention of obesity and Type II diabetes, improved respiratory health, improved skin complexion, increased social interaction, prevention of insomnia, and many other physical health benefits.
For some reason, the health benefits of physical activity have not been recognized as much as the many health risks. There are numerous health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and so on.
While the biggest health problem for most Americans is smoking, getting regular physical activity has proven to help reduce many health problems including smoking-related diseases.
Another benefit is that being physically active releases chemicals, endorphins, natural pain killers, and other neurotransmitters that can help you handle pain. If you think that these things sound like some drug or health product you can imagine how beneficial these are to your well-being.
The third of the three main health benefits is mental health. Mental health can be directly impacted by the amounts of aerobic activity performed throughout a day. When you do a lot of walking, biking, jogging, running, or whatever the activity, you begin to develop a sense of motivation. This motivational energy translates into improved focus, self-esteem, less stress, less negative thoughts, and greater mental health.
Finally, the last of the three major health benefits is reduced risk for certain types of cancers. Studies have found that participating in a minimum amount of physical activity regularly reduces the likelihood of prostate and breast cancer.
Researchers are unsure exactly why, but it appears that the additional benefits of being physically active may help reduce the risk of these two cancers by as much as 40%. Additional research studies are currently underway to determine if this benefit is the result of the participants taking more antioxidants, or if it is due to the participants simply having a healthier lifestyle.
The good news is that regardless of age, whether you are young or old, or whether you are overweight or not, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight by engaging in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Participating in sports or recreational activities can be extremely enjoyable, especially if you are having fun. Further, you are able to meet new friends and enjoy a variety of new experiences.
When you are active, your brain generates more dopamine, a chemical that creates feelings of well-being and activates your brain’s pleasure center, which leads to an overall feeling of happiness and well-being. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in your brain that controls your emotion, appetite, sexual function, movement, sleep, muscle maintenance, and more.
There is no question that regular physical activity burns fat, increases your resting metabolism, improves your immunity against colds and infections, improves your cardiovascular health, helps to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decreases your risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer, provides more energy and stamina, and makes you feel better throughout your day.
To get started, start slowly by only doing a moderate amount of exercise regularly. Over time, as you become more fit, you can increase your physical activity to the level you were already doing. Talk to your doctor to determine the health benefits of physical activity for older adults and make lifestyle changes to help you live a longer and healthier life.