Exercise is defined as any movement that makes your muscles work and requires your body to burn calories.
There are many types of physical activity, including swimming, running, jogging, walking and dancing, to name a few.
Being active has been shown to have many health benefits, both physically and mentally. It may even help you live longer (1Trusted Source).
Here are the top 10 ways regular exercise benefits your body and brain.
Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress (2Trusted Source).
It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase brain sensitivity for the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression (1Trusted Source).
Additionally, exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain (1Trusted Source).
Furthermore, exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms in people suffering from anxiety. It can also help them be more aware of their mental state and practice distraction from their fears (1Trusted Source).
Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how intense your workout is. It seems that your mood can benefit from exercise no matter the intensity of the physical activity.
In fact, a study in 24 women who had been diagnosed with depression showed that exercise of any intensity significantly decreased feelings of depression (3Trusted Source).
The effects of exercise on mood are so powerful that choosing to exercise (or not) even makes a difference over short periods.
One study asked 26 healthy men and women who normally exercised regularly to either continue exercising or stop exercising for two weeks. Those who stopped exercising experienced increases in negative mood (4Trusted Source).
Some studies have shown that inactivity is a major factor in weight gain and obesity (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
To understand the effect of exercise on weight reduction, it is important to understand the relationship between exercise and energy expenditure.
Your body spends energy in three ways: digesting food, exercising and maintaining body functions like your heartbeat and breathing.
While dieting, a reduced calorie intake will lower your metabolic rate, which will delay weight loss. On the contrary, regular exercise has been shown to increase your metabolic rate, which will burn more calories and help you lose weight (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Additionally, studies have shown that combining aerobic exercise with resistance training can maximize fat loss and muscle mass maintenance, which is essential for keeping the weight off (6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10, 11Trusted Source).
Exercise plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong muscles and bones.
Physical activity like weight lifting can stimulate muscle building when paired with adequate protein intake.
This is because exercise helps release hormones that promote the ability of your muscles to absorb amino acids. This helps them grow and reduces their breakdown (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass and function, which can lead to injuries and disabilities. Practicing regular physical activity is essential to reducing muscle loss and maintaining strength as you age (14Trusted Source).
Also, exercise helps build bone density when you’re younger, in addition to helping prevent osteoporosis later in life (15Trusted Source).
Interestingly, high-impact exercise, such as gymnastics or running, or odd-impact sports, such as soccer and basketball, have been shown to promote a higher bone density than non-impact sports like swimming and cycling (16Trusted Source).
Exercise can be a real energy booster for healthy people, as well as those suffering from various medical conditions (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
One study found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue for 36 healthy people who had reported persistent fatigue (19Trusted Source).
Furthermore, exercise can significantly increase energy levels for people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and other serious illnesses (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
In fact, exercise seems to be more effective at combating CFS than other treatments, including passive therapies like relaxation and stretching, or no treatment at all (20Trusted Source).
Additionally, exercise has been shown to increase energy levels in people suffering from progressive illnesses, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis (21Trusted Source).
Lack of regular physical activity is a primary cause of chronic disease (22Trusted Source).
Regular exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular fitness and body composition, yet decrease blood pressure and blood fat levels (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
In contrast, a lack of regular exercise — even in the short term — can lead to significant increases in belly fat, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and early death (23Trusted Source).
Therefore, daily physical activity is recommended to reduce belly fat and decrease the risk of developing these diseases (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
6. It Can Help Skin Health
Your skin can be affected by the amount of oxidative stress in your body.
Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s antioxidant defenses cannot completely repair the damage that free radicals cause to cells. This can damage their internal structures and deteriorate your skin.
Even though intense and exhaustive physical activity can contribute to oxidative damage, regular moderate exercise can increase your body’s production of natural antioxidants, which help protect cells (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
In the same way, exercise can stimulate blood flow and induce skin cell adaptations that can help delay the appearance of skin aging (31Trusted Source).