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Family Health

6 Benefits of Exercise: Why Working Out Is the Real Miracle Drug

We're all looking for it: the miracle drug, diet trick, or life hack that improves our physical and mental health while adding quality years onto our live-span. Well, guess what: The remedy does exist, but it isn't a medication, a supplement, or a fad diet. Instead, it's a simple but incredibly powerful habit: exercise.

The benefits of regular physical activity go far beyond weight loss -- working out on a consistent basis is one of the most important contributors to our overall health. Here are six benefits of exercise that should encourage you to get out there and sweat.

1. A Stronger Body

Without regular activity, joints stiffen, muscles shrink, and bones become more brittle. But routine exercise reduces the risk of osteoarthritis and alleviates pain and stiffness, as the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) details. Bone density loss slows while muscles strengthen, and flexibility is important for injury prevention. Working out also stretches tendons and ligaments. These benefits of exercise are especially important for older adults, and being active now can improve your life as you age.

2. Improved Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., as the CDC details. Engaging in regular exercise, especially workouts targeting the cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure and levels of bad cholesterol. Both of these effects reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease.

3. Reduced Chronic Disease Risk

Diabetes ranks among the nation's deadliest chronic diseases, but once again, exercise goes a long way in this regard. The CDC explains how a combination of regular activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight reduces your risk for developing the disease by lowering your blood glucose levels. Furthermore, if you already have diabetes, it helps minimize the detrimental effects of the disease. People who are physically active are also at lower risk for both colon and breast cancers. Exercise may even help prevent lung and endometrial cancers.

4. Enhanced Mental Health

The benefits of exercise extend beyond your physical health. Even moderate physical activity can improve mood and mental wellness, according to CDC research. It can also help you get better sleep, which is vital to both your physical and mental health. Your risk for depression also diminishes with regular exercise, while judgment and memory improve.

5. Easier, Safer Daily Living

Daily life is better and safer for those who remain active. For example, routine exercise reduces the risk of falls: The BJSM explains how exercise improves balance among people living with Parkinson's disease and enhances stamina for people coping with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.

6. A Longer Life

Exercise can make your life healthier and safer, and it can also help you live longer. CDC research details how being active for a mere seven hours per week reduces your risk of an early death by 40 percent compared to those who exercise a negligible amount (for less than half an hour weekly).

Even if you don't have any extra weight to lose, the benefits of exercise for health, longevity, and quality of life should be all the motivation you need to get started. If you have any serious health issues or are taking any medications, talk to your doctor before starting a workout regimen. Begin with something easy (a walking routine is a good entry point to regular physical fitness), and slowly increase your intensity to levels you can safely manage. Reaping the many benefits of exercise is really that simple.

Posted in Family Health

Since retiring from a career as a medical, geriatric, and public social worker, Charles Hooper has published hundreds of articles and blog posts on a variety of topics, including health and medicine, politics and government, and advocacy. Charles graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master's degree in social work. He received an Outstanding Scholar award and graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he majored in sociology and political science.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.