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Healthline Mental Health

What are the mental and physical health benefits of exercise?

Exercise has many benefits, both curative and preventive, for physical and mental health. Any amount of exercise, even if it falls below the suggested amount, is likely to produce benefits.
Exercise benefits both mental health and physical health. Indeed, the National Institute on Aging say studies show that “taking it easy” is risky.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source say that “Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health,” and everyone can benefit.
Back in 1953, a pioneering epidemiological study in The Lancet showed that rates of coronary heart disease were lower among physically active London bus conductors than among less active bus drivers.
According to a recent reviewTrusted Source, since that early report, researchers have linked physical inactivity with more than 40 chronic conditions.
This article looks at some specific benefits of regular exercise for mental and physical health.

1. Improves cardiovascular health

Regular exercise is good for heart health. Possible benefits include:

Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease is an important benefit of exercise.

A person can begin experiencing the benefits of regular exercise right awayTrusted Source, though the CDCTrusted Source recommend that adults perform 150 minutes a week of at least moderate intensity activity.

The benefits continue to increase as people are more active than this.

2. Helps with diabetes management

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), different types of exercise can benefit people with, or at risk of, type 2 diabetes by:

  • improving control of blood glucose
  • reducing cardiovascular risk factors
  • helping with weight loss
  • helping with general well-being
  • delaying or preventing the development of type 2 diabetes

Exercise can also benefit people with type 1 diabetes by:

  • improving cardiovascular fitness
  • strengthening muscles
  • improving insulin sensitivity

The ADA say, “Physical activity and exercise should be recommended and prescribed to all individuals with diabetes as part of management of glycemic control and overall health.”

3. Reduces risk of some cancers

The National Cancer Institute say there is “strong evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risk” of the following cancers:
  • colon
  • stomach
  • esophageal
  • breast
  • bladder
  • uterine (endometrial)
  • kidney
For example, a 2016 analysis of 26 breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer studies found a 37% reduction in cancer-specific mortality when comparing the most active patients with the least active.
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