The Well-Being Benefits of Physical Activity

24 Nov ‘23
6 min
Lifestyle
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by lifestyle expert Aäron Spapens
In a world where sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits, and high levels of stress have become the norm, taking care of our health has become more important than ever before. With an overwhelming amount of conflicting information available, it can be challenging to determine the best course of action. However, the science is clear – regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to maintain overall well-being.

 

Studies have shown that physical activity can lead to a wide range of  benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. 

 

Despite the many benefits of physical activity, ​it can be difficult to stay consistent and motivated with your routine. That’s why it’s important to break physical activity down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Let’s explore this below:

 

Make your physical activity routine manageable 

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. 

 

While this might seem like a daunting task, breaking it down into smaller chunks throughout the week provides a more realistic outlook. 

 

Here are some examples to make these guidelines more manageable:

 

✅ 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity: You could aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking five days per week, which could be done before or after work, on your commute, or during your lunch break. If walking isn’t up your street, you could engage in another form of aerobic activity, such as swimming, cycling, tennis, or whichever activity you enjoy the most.

 

✅ Muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week: You could aim to incorporate at least two gym sessions into your schedule each week, and pair up with a friend to keep you engaged and accountable if you struggle with consistency. If this isn’t available or appealing to you, consider investing in resistance bands and/or dumbbells so you can practice muscle-strengthening exercises at home. Another option is to join a strength workout class, which can help with your motivation and includes the added benefit of socialising with new people! 

 

3 physical activity key factors

 

Before we delve into the specific benefits of physical activity, it’s worth highlighting a few general points about the topic:

 

  • What works best for one person may not work for another. For example, some people may prefer high-intensity interval training (HIIT), while others may prefer yoga or swimming.  The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and that fits your schedule and abilities.  

 

  • Second, it’s important to approach exercise with a gradual and realistic mindset. Often, we see fitness accounts on social media that show ultra-runners, weightlifters, and triathlon-doers engaged in extremely intense physical activity routines. Despite what you may see online, it’s important to remember that this intensity is unrealistic if you are starting out on your physical activity journey or are simply looking to improve your fitness levels. Starting too quickly or pushing too hard can lead to injury or (physical) burnout, which can derail your progress. With this in mind, take it easy and build your routine up slowly but steadily. 

 

  • Finally, it’s important to remember that physical activity is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and avoiding harmful substances like tobacco and excessive alcohol are also crucial components of overall health and well-being.

 

The top 4 benefits of physical activity on your well-being

 

The health and well-being benefits of regular physical activity are highly extensive. Although it would be impossible to list every single one, let’s explore a summary of some of the top benefits below: 

 

1.  Physical activity maintains good cardiovascular health

 

One of the most significant benefits of exercise is improved cardiovascular health. A study that outlined the association of physical activity with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality published in the ‘European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation’ found that people who regularly exercised had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, regardless of other risk factors such as age, smoking, and high blood pressure. 

 

Exercise can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which are crucial for maintaining good cardiovascular health. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in ‘Hypertension’ found that aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking or cycling, can help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. 

 

2.  Physical activity is linked to a stronger immune system

 

Regular exercise has also been linked to a stronger immune system. A study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that people who exercised regularly had a lower risk of upper respiratory tract infections such as colds and flu. Exercise helps boost the body’s production of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections.

 

 

3.  Physical activity fights chronic diseases

 

In addition to improving cardiovascular health and boosting the immune system, exercise has also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in ‘Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise’ found that regular exercise was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Another study published in the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ found that exercise can help prevent and manage obesity, which is a significant risk factor for many chronic diseases. 

 

 

4.  Physical activity boost your mental well-being

 

In addition to its benefits for physical health, exercise has numerous mental well-being benefits as well:

 

  •  Reduced mental well-being challenges: When you engage in regular physical activity, you’re not just working on your physical fitness but also on your mental well-being. Scientific research shows how moving your body regularly has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved mood, and better cognitive function. 

 

  • Enhance mood: As you move your body, your brain releases endorphins—those feel-good chemicals that can help alleviate stress and boost your mood. 

 

  • Improved cognitive function: A scientific study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that regular exercise can help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of developing dementia.

 

Move more, live better

 

Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can work wonders for your overall health and mental well-being. There is no doubt that it’s one of the best things you can do for your body and mind. Physical activity is not only essential but also enjoyable and rewarding. Whether it’s walking, swimming, biking, or strength training, physical activity can also provide additional benefits, such as getting outside in nature, strengthening your social connections, and giving you with a more confident and optimistic approach to life. 

 

By making physical activity a part of your daily routine and combining it with other healthy habits, you can improve your overall mental well-being. So get moving and start reaping the many benefits that physical activity has to offer!

 

Our blog is backed by extensive research from multiple medical sources, although not all are cited here. The OpenUp editorial team and lifestyle experts have conducted thorough research; please feel free to contact us for more information on the additional references.

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