According to the journal entitled Public Health Reports, physical exercise is a kind of activity that involves using skeletal muscles to perform repeatedly planned and structured bodily movements which result in energy expenditure. The ultimate goal is to maintain and improve physical fitness. As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), lack of physical exercise is the fourth leading cause of deaths worldwide, with around 6 percent of the people dying globally, due to lack of physical activity. This means that physical exercise is an important activity. Following are some of the main advantages of physical exercise that illustrate its importance:
1. Reduces Risk of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
Currently, according to the WHO, lack of physical activity is responsible for five most common and deadly NCDs, namely: heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, colon cancer, and stroke.
Around 30 percent of ischaemic heart disease cases, 27 percent of diabetes cases, and 21-25 percent of breast and colon cancer cases occur due to physical inactivity, as reported by the WHO. On the other hand, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), makes both heart disease and stroke occupy the top spot for causing the maximum number of deaths in the U.S.
According to the latest report by the U.S. News & World Report, doing plenty of physical exercises can also help in safeguarding people against the NCDs as mentioned above. The report, based on 174 studies published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), during the last 36 years, suggests that regularly high levels of weekly physical activity can reduce the risk of the five NCDs. In order to study the health benefits of physical exercise, the researchers used a metric known as the MET minutes, which helped them gauge the effect of physical activities of different durations on the overall health of the participants. The obtained findings indicated that indulging in 3,000 to 4,000 MET minutes every week appeared to have profound health benefits. Moreover, the report also suggests that an average adult or individual can easily accommodate these MET minutes as part of their daily routine by dividing the total amount of physical activity into different tasks. For instance, 30 minutes of jogging or walking; climbing stairs for 15 minutes; gardening for 20 minutes; and 15 minutes of vacuuming, can easily be made a part of day-to-day activities. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, regularly sticking to the above schedule is sufficient to burn 100-200 additional calories per day.
2. Increases Lifespan and Decelerates Aging
Apart from protecting against NCDs, there are also other health benefits which physical exercise offers. According to “The Hindu,” intense physical activity has been found to be positively correlated with the longevity of life. This discovery was made by scientists in 2011. They researched different studies spanning decades and involving athletes as well as those elderly people who regularly indulged in a physical activity of any kind, even if it is as mild as simple walking. The argument is that a strenuous physical workout causes the body to release molecules called Telomeric RNA (TERRA), that trigger the growth of telomeres. For the uninitiated, telomeres are caps on the end of the chromosomes, as reported by “The Hindu.” Their importance stems from their critical role in accelerating the rejuvenation of damaged body cells, which rapidly deteriorate due to normal daily wear and tear and metabolic processes.
Telomeres can be both short and long, as reported by “The Hindu.” As found by researchers and scientists, the former denotes aged cells regarding their decreased ability to recover from damage, and the latter, based on numerous studies show a heightened ability for replenishment, and thus, have been linked to decelerated aging, and hence, increased longevity of life.
3. Strengthens Bones and Muscles
According to CDC, physical exercise is also essential for building strong bones and healthy muscular body. Indulging daily in a moderate level of aerobic exercises or weight training for strengthening bones and toning muscles can help in combatting bone density issues that may occur with increasing age. Research also suggests that people who regularly do aerobics for even two or three hours per week have a less probability of suffering both from hip fracture and other bone-related ailments such as arthritis, as reported by CDC.
4. Improves Mental Health and Well-being
Finally, regular physical exercise, apart from benefiting the body also benefits the mind. According to CDC, it is very helpful in keeping the cognitive skills sharp. Exercise is useful to regularly polish the skills to make a judgment, learn, and think. Besides, even existing research, as reported by CDC, suggests the important role played by a mix of different exercises such as yoga, aerobics, and muscle-strengthening workouts daily for 30-60 minutes that can help in keeping depression at bay, and improve sleep patterns.
By Bashar Saajid
Edited by Cathy Milne
Public Health Reports (1985): Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research – Vol.100, No.2 by C.J. Caspersen, K.E. Powell, and G.M. Christenson
The Hindu: Exercise and watch your life lengthen
U.S. News & WORLD REPORT: Regular Exercise: Antidote for Deadly Diseases?
World Health Organization (WHO): Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Physical Activity and Health: Benefits of Physical Activity
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Guide to Physical Activity
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