Benefits of Exercise

Get Motivated to Exercise

Need a reason to work out? Here are 7 to start

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

What if someone told you that a thinner, healthier, and longer life was within your grasp? Sound too good to be true? According to a wealth of research, exercise is the silver bullet for a better quality of life.

Not only does regular exercise aid in weight loss, it reduces your risk for several chronic diseases and conditions. Finding activities that you enjoy and that become part of your daily routine is the key to a long and healthy life.

The list of health benefits is impressive, and the requirements are relatively simple -- just do it.

Ward Off Disease

Research has confirmed that any amount of exercise, at any age, is beneficial. And, in general, the more you do, the greater the benefits. The National Academy of Sciences has recommended that everyone strive for a total of an hour per day of physical activity. Sounds like a lot, but the hour can be made up of several shorter bursts of activity (it can be walking, gardening, even heavy housecleaning) done throughout the day.

Physical activity is an essential part of any weight-loss program, to maximize your fat loss while keeping valuable muscle mass. But exercise has many other health and longevity benefits. It can help prevent or improve these conditions:

1. Heart Disease.

Regular activity strengthens your heart muscle; lowers blood pressure; increases "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs) and lowers "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs); enhances blood flow; and helps your heart function more efficiently. All of these benefits reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Researchers at Duke University suggest that the amount of physical activity, rather than its intensity, has the biggest impact on improving blood lipids (cholesterol). According to The New England Journal of Medicine, these researchers also found that any exercise is better than none -- although more is better.

2. Stroke.

In an analysis of 23 studies, researchers found that being active reduces your risk of having and dying from a stroke. According to a study published in the journal Stroke, moderately active study participants had 20% less risk of stroke than less active participants.

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